Failure to Report for Work

Q. I have an employee who didn't show up until mid-morning yesterday and not at all today. Can I fire him? My handbook doesn't speak to this. I want to avoid paying unemployment.

A. Here are two possible alternatives.

First, you can discharge the employee for cause. In this case, the justifiable cause for termination is the employee's failure to report to work.

Second, and the preferred method, is you can treat the absence as a voluntary quit. Inform the unemployment service the employee has voluntarily quit as of the date he or she failed to report for work.

The problems with both approaches are:

1. If you don't have a written policy on this, communicated to your employees, the employee can argue he or she was unaware absence from work would result in termination.

2. The employee can argue the reason for the absence was an emergency or illness, and the unemployment service will accept this as justification for the absence.

Therefore, it is important for you to put both approaches in writing, as company policies, and communicate your policies to your employees.

Best approach, if you do not already have an established policy: Contact the employee immediately, by phone or in writing -- preferably by certified mail. Tell the employee clearly what your requirements are for attendance and for approved absences. Explain if he or she fails to report to work, following these rules, by a certain date and time you will consider the unapproved absence a voluntary quit.

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