Dear HR: This Is Why People Hate You

I’m swamped today, so of course, I had to scroll through the Legal Advice subreddit and came across this:

I was on a ride along with a cop. The officer made a traffic stop, gave the driver a ticket, and the driver is now trying to fight the ticket in court. I have been subpoenaed, with the court date being set for the end of November. At my job the holiday season is our busiest time of the year, so from mid November until the end of the year my company refuses approve any time off for any reason. I asked HR what I needed to do as far as bringing in paperwork for them, and was told I will still have to take a point for missing work. That being said, this point will be enough for me to be terminated. If I am fired over this subpoena, can I sue for wrongful termination since I have no option but to miss work for this court date that I had no control over?

Now, being that I haven’t worked in Indiana, I don’t actually know the legal answer to any of this. But, I do know the moral answer: it’s time for new HR.

I understand that busy seasons are real, and you don’t want people taking off for frivolous reasons. I am even okay with saying “no vacation or personal days allowed between X and Y” as long as you say so upfront during the hiring process. But then you make exceptions.

Somebody’s wife is having a baby? They can take time off, even if they don’t qualify for FMLA. Someone’s sister scheduled her wedding during this time? Yep. Exception. And someone who receives a subpoena? Exception.

Yes, consistent enforcement of policies is generally a good thing, but you need to have exceptions. If you can’t figure out when you should grant those exceptions, you should get out of HR.

If you’re concerned that other people will complain that Joe got a day off, then think just how much they will complain if Joe gets thrown in jail for ignoring a subpoena? This will not help you.

Additionally, depending on the type of job, Joe may be able to go out and get a job at your competitor, who may happily give him the day off and a sign-on bonus. Then you’ll have to hire and train someone new to replace Joe. This is not cost-effective.

So, dear HR person, when you complain that people hate you, take a look at this decision and say, “yup, that’s why.”

Now, I’m back to work, and I promise to stay off Reddit. It’s bad for my blood pressure.

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16 thoughts on “Dear HR: This Is Why People Hate You

  1. As an HR professional for a business where people being present makes the business run, I agree with exceptions and most policies build these in. The way this is described, there’s a point system which generally allows for these acceptable exceptions. I find it hard to believe that a business would have a one point = your terminated policy. They wouldn’t have anyone working there! My experience is that this person may have used all of their acceptable points and is now in a pinch for what now sounds to be an acceptable time off. We need to keep in mind that it’s not generally the actual occurrence at hand that may be forcing the hand, in this case, the termination.

    1. Even if the person is on his last chance, being subpoenaed is not a reason to give a person a point.

      It’s the action that HR takes, not the result that matters.

  2. So you’re saying that if you’re allowed to have 5 points before termination and the 6th happens to be this occurrence, that a company shouldn’t have the ability to hold people accountable and do what’s right for productivity? Likely three of the first 5 points were not legitimately acceptable after all. Hard to stay productive if you give 100% of your staff 100% of their unapproved time away from work.

    The action should be consistent with the results. That = smart business. Lead with your heart but keep everyone accountable. 😉

    1. If I were the judge in that case, I’d issue a bench warrant for whoever fired someone for *refusing to break the law*, without any regard to their point system or the witnesses standing in it.

    2. They’ll still have the five points even if you give them this one exception, so your point is kind of irrelevant.

      1. There’s a lot of missing information about this specific individual’s actual presence at work. I was a bit confused when the start of the tale mentioned being present for a ride-along in a patrol car. To be be able to do that, there’s a whole lot of paperwork permissions involved and I don’t know if an ordinary person does that just for the “experience”. There’s only certain fields of work that “ride-along”. Does this person do this for the job, that is holding them on a point system or is this part of another reason? To me, if the job HR is questioning and holding this person to the point system and not granting them the time off, it sounds like it(the excuse) has been used previously too many times prior (think of the funeral excuse).
        Okay I get it, some people work a job mainly for the steady paycheck but it is never their main focus because their outside activity is their “dream” focus but doesn’t always pan out financially. Usually these types of people don’t like having to be responsible for how they manage their time off requests and don’t like to be limited or written up for overuse excessive time off, especially if it has nothing to do with a medical condition, which can be handled by appropriate procedures. The only thing HR did wrong was not following up correctly in documenting every episode until this time period to have a record of the pattern.

        1. None of which is relevant to the fact that at *this* time there’s a subpoena, and it’s a crime to ignore it. Firing someone for not committing a crime seems like a bad career move for HR, or anybody else. Judges take a time view of things like that.

        2. Nah, not true. My niece used to want to be a police officer, and so she did ride along with the local PD just to check it out.

          It depends on your location, of course, and the individual police department.

        3. I highly doubt that the OP has been subpoenaed so often that their work now no longer believes that its a real subpoena. But even OP has been a flake in the past, subpoenas are typically pretty easily proven to be real, so firing someone for being subpoenaed would still be highly unethical and possibly illegal. Just like it would be if you fired an unreliable employee for being called to jury duty.

    3. It’s a SUBPOENA! If he doesn’t show he goes to jail!! Yes, I would say this one doesn’t count.

      1. In many cases, the risk of potentially going to jail for contempt outweighs the risk of losing a job. Sure, a warrant might be issued but if it’s in another state, they might get “lucky” if that state labels the warrant “in-state only.”

        A distant cousin-in-law got issued a citation for selling alcohol to a minor as a store clerk (one of those undercover stings), ended up leaving that state, and never bothered to go to court over it. They’ve had a few traffic stops since and the warrant is run and they get told “you need to take care of this in state X” and let go.

        Of course, their original court date was a certain week in September 2001 in a state bordering the NYC area, so their getting lost in the system in the wake of a national tragedy has “helped” them (with COVID having forced delays at courthouses, I’m willing to bet similar situations are going to pop up in the decades to come).

  3. I think there may be an opportunity for compromise. Since the company blocks out mid November to December, it’s probably retail. I find it odd that the court date is “at the end of November “ , which may mean they want Black Friday off. Regardless, court usually doesn’t last all day, so a compromise may be an excused reduced or modified shift(7a-11a), or a shift switch with another employee, or the employee returns after court ends.

    1. Most retail doesn’t operate on a point system, but places like factories do. I’ll bet it’s a place that sees a corresponding increase in volume like retail would, so it might be a place like Amazon, FedEx, or UPS (although the latter is unionized i think).

      Court system doesn’t care about business cycles and honestly why the suspicion? If he’s got a subpoena, he’s got a subpoena. It sounds you’re just making up something nefarious because of the timing, god forbid mere peons such as this fellow have life events that interrupt a bit of business productivity for one day. In business, you plan for employees not being able to be present because stuff like this happens.

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