Bad Boss of the Week: Punished for Puking

In many businesses, physical attendance is critical. If you’re a manufacturing facility, the line can’t run without the employees. If your creative team is working together to come up with a new product, the team needs to be on time so the work can begin. In order to achieve this, many companies have strict time and attendance policies.

One manager, who (it should be noted) did not create the policy, describes the problem created when your strict time and attendance polices are horrible.

The attendance policy at my job states that if an employee is at least one minute late up to an hour, then they receive half an occurrence or point, and if they are an hour late or more then they receive a full point. They also receive a full point if they leave early and do not complete at least four hours of work. This leads up to termination, at eight points. I have an employee who has managed to get himself up to six points. One of those points came from us sending him home for vomiting from being sick with the flu. I know we are allowed by law to send him home, but he is protesting that we are not allowed to send him home early for being sick when he is willing to work and to give him a point at the same time.

To read the response, click here: Bad Boss of the Week: Punished for Puking

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34 thoughts on “Bad Boss of the Week: Punished for Puking

  1. The employee was not fired for a single occurrence.  The employee was fired for exceeding eight points.  You have hit on the common excuse for those with attendance problems: “but I was really sick this time” or “I was only a few minutes late this time.”  This company appears to have a reasonable attendance policy.  Very few companies have the ability to excuse multiple absences or lateness, regardless of how good the reason.  Your job expects you to come to work, deal with it.

      1. Yes, employees get sick. That is why they have 8 points before they get fired. They also have FMLA if they get really sick. They also probably have vacation time. The employee in question did not get fired, they received a point. That was the policy.

    1. Um. No.

      a) the employee was not fired.
      b) You can’t have it both ways. You can’t Tell Him to go home and also punish him for going home.
      c) EHRL is correct that considering “1 minute late” to be as bad (punishable) as an hour late is lunacy. Are all of the clocks synchronized? Seriously??
      d) “Your job expects you to come to work, deal with it”.
      A job, manager, administrator, or policy that “expects you to come to work” when you are sick is a bad / broken job, manager, etc.

      1. The synchronization thing kills me. Yeah, all my own clocks aren’t synchronized, let alone all the people’s in the entire company.

        I suspect this is also a situation where if you clock in 5 minutes early you’re punished too, because no unauthorized overtime is allowed!

  2. Was this company ARAMARK? Because this was their policy when I worked there. It was exactly this – even calling out “occurances”. Do you know what this creates? Clockers. People line up at the clock and punch it so they are on time in the morning, out at lunch, in at lunch, and leave like they are on fire in the evening. They don’t want to be there an extra second. They don’t want to do a bit of work extra. Including giving extra effort. When the opportunity to leave comes along, they JUMP. Turnover was high among hourly employees and the HR dept. I bet they never figured out why they couldn’t keep quality employees. We were in the Atlanta metro. Traffic will cause even good employees to be late every once in a while.

    1. This is exactly that type of environment you create with these kinds of policies. Of course, the management then takes the unhappy workforce as a sign that their slacker employees need more rules, and the cycle continues.

  3. The problem here is the fact that the employee was doing what they were told to do by the policy, coming to work. The office have to realise that if you tell someone that if they’re a minute late, or have a sick kid, or spouse, or get sick themselves they will be fired, they will come in even if they are sick. Then they are punished ANYWAY. The company needs to understand that they are going to have sick people come in. Those rules require it. They cannot have it both ways. Someone genuinely ill drags themselves in and gets sent home anyhow. And it depends on what those 8 points ARE whether or not they are legit, whether or not the punishment is reasonable. The note above says nothing about the reasons for the SIX points, one of which was forced on the employee who came in to work and was sent home against their will.

    1. It is true that we don’t know how the employee gained his other 6 points. But, I still think, under no circumstances should an employee receive a point for having the misfortune to get the stomach flu.


  4. Amen, EHRL! Our attendance policy is similar to the one mentioned here. It will be the hallmark of my HR career to get the managers to not only change the policy, but to understand why it needs to be changed. Wish me luck!

  5. Punished for not working because of sickness, punished for working through sickness.

    …And we wonder why people hate HR?

  6. If I ruled the world, I would remove attendance policies that penalize staff for using sick time or come in tardy. In my experience, those staff members who are abusing sick leave policies are also the same staff members who are not completing work timely, exhibit poor customer service, or any one of other performance issues. If it is an issue of tardy, really identify what the impact is of the tardy to the business and address that as a performance issue. If a staff member is abusing ill time, again, what is the impact to the business. An attendance policy should address how sick time is to be used rather than penalizing staff for using it.

    It is a common misconception with most of the leaders that I work with that attendance is the easiest way to manage a poor performer out of the organization. Unfortunately, that is just not the case. With FMLA and ADA, what was once a very black and white expectation is now very gray. It is much easier to manage poor performers by addressing the performance directly.

    Since I don’t rule the world (as of yet) and many organizations feel that they need to have attendance policies, please . . . . please . . . . please have that policy give managers discretion to take the whole situation into account. (For example, the 25 year employee who hasn’t missed a day is having a really bad 7 months or the 15 year employee who’s performance is above par is tardy once or twice a month.) Our leaders need to be able to exercise judgement, be consistent and focus on doing the right thing!

  7. When I started here, the sick & attendance policies had been fairly strict. Well, in writing, they were fairly fair. I think that my predecessor would verbally ‘tweak’ them to suit her fancy, and she was always strict when someone was a bit late or had to go home sick, or stay home with a sick child. These ‘rules’ were feared by many staff, and used by ammo by others. It was not a good environment to work in. There was almost zero tolerance for staff who needed to tend to family matters. (one woman’s child was injured at daycare – ambulance and everything – she was told ‘too bad, call your babysitter. You don’t have one available? too bad, call a social worker. you are needed HERE!’) Those who were sick came in to work regardless and had to ‘prove’ how sick they were. If you had a funeral that you wanted to go to, it better be a direct family member or too bad. If you had a wedding to go to and the ceremony was during your regular work hours, too bad, wish them luck at the reception after. Staff were nit-picking at each other and not being sympathetic whatsoever! But it did not good! Someone would be sick, come into work so they would not have to face the wrath, infect several others who, in turn, would come in sick, as they were afraid of other staff members ridiculing them over it! Staff were allowed to get away with this behavior. This was the woman’s job, and management didn’t interfere.

    It took me months to change the mindset of everyone after I took the position! I had to start by pointing the WRITTEN policy out to management so they could see that it was not quite so harsh and we could lighten up a bit. Then I had to work on staff being sympathetic and fair to one another. It makes for a much nicer environment to work in, and makes it much easier to tell who is taking advantage of the system, and who needs to be monitored or dealt with accordingly.

    They still can nit-pick at each other, but I am not afraid to use ‘reverse psychology’ on them (“so you think Sally should have been told she couldn’t go home even though she has spent the morning in the bathroom puking? Can you please write that out for me? Why? so when YOU catch the flu bug, I can show you that note and tell you that you must stay at work! No, you don’t like that idea? then can you see that it is fair that Sally goes home so you DON’T get sick?”), or show them the other person’s situation. It also helps staff to be open with each other about their situations as well.

  8. Do these 8 points ever reset? If you work there 20 years do you still have only 8 points? Does it apply to managers too? I bet it doesn’t. Jerks.

    1. Our was, after 60 days only one point came off. We had 10 points until being fired.

      But if you had even 1 missed or late punch or call in you got another point and you were reset back to the beginning of the 60 days and a point added of course.

      So essentionally, you could keep collecting points and never get them deducted enough to wipe them off.

      Although I think the policy was overboard in general, I would question someone who kept calling in or was constantly late. Each situtation needs to be taken care of seperately. If one person is coming in late a lot or calling in deal with it. Don’t pick on the once in a while issues.

  9.  Attendance policies have their place for a reason.  There is a large portion of the working class people who have terrible attendance, esp if they are hourly.  Working in a service industry where the customer is expecting work to be done, having a workforce that may or my not show up is unworkable. I have seen countless times where employees use sick days for non-sick occurrences and get stuck when they do get sick. If the employee is a contagious and could get my workers/customers sick, they have no place at work.  

    1. That comes across as very classist, and I have to wonder if your policies promote discrimination due to this.

      1. Well, I’m glad that I had good management when I was a waitress. I made sure to show up on time, work hard, and provide excellent service. In return, I was believed when I called in sick. The people who were constantly calling in sick had other issues.

        I’m no longer a waitress-but I will say-a good portion of us who’ve been in the industry are more than capable of showing up on time and working well. If you can’t manage, that’s your fault. Maybe offer higher wages or hire better. It’s not like nobody’s looking for work now.

    2. I cannot agree with you more Lord Manager. These working class people simply cannot be trusted. Thank heavens the universe saw fit to create a class of people like us to keep them under control. Next thing, they would be wanting an extra ladle of gruel and to have a desk closer to the coal stove when it snows.

  10. We had the same exact policy at a former job I was at. If you punched 1 min late from lunch, half a point. If you got sent home or to the doc because you are sick… again.. you are SENT home….you got a point. 1 min late or an hour, same point. Call in’s, a point… and so on.

    If you never had a punching/call in issue at all in 2 years…. and you left early because your child got sick at school and you had to leave… a point was given. It didn’t matter that you NEVER called in or punched late since the day you started. No leeway any employees.

    The turnover was incredible. People just didn’t care. “Oh well.. slap another point, who cares. I hate it here anyway”

    They finally changed the policy. Much more flexibility. Happier employees. Turnover still high for other reasons ( still unresloved problems) but at least we didn’t get points for being a min late anymore.

    1. This office was not at all reliant on being there ” on time”. It was medical billing in which most of us just did our own work, with no need to be ” on the phones”. If you punched at 8:01 the work was not affected at all.

      The policy was changed to coming in any time from 6 am to 7 pm. coming in no later then 9am. Put in 8 hours and not doing 4 10’s to get off every Friday. Everyone loved it. Our group all worked it at so that at least 3 people were there until 4.

      Some came about 8 because they had kids to get off for school and that worked out perfect for others that wanted to come in eariler and leave early.

      1. You wonder why places like starbucks has the need to keep people on call or short notice schedule changes. There is no flexibility when the customer wants something. You cannot tell them to hold on for 30 minutes while your employee is running late in traffic.

        1. Exactly. Like I said, that job that I spoke of didn’t need to be in at 8:01 or the world would stop turning.
          At my current job I have to be there at 7. Period. No problem. I know that and get there 10 mins before to get myself ready.

          But for reason the workers in the plant get a little more leeway. They do not get talked to about missed or screwy punches. They should be there on time when the lines start.

  11. We have the same policy here.

    You aren’t fired for the 1 instance, you are fired for the sum total instances over a rolling 90 day period. It’s a 5-tier setup with 3 points for the first tier and 2 for each of the rest. That’s equivalent to 11 points. For tardies. Call-offs are over a 60 day period and count as a full point

    Though, the big differences for us:
    – We don’t ding people that come to work, feel bad and then go home
    – If they leave for non-sickness issues then they are dinged
    -Each occurrence is a half point
    – It’s also not a bright line policy..we, for good or bad, manage it in the grey a little

    Are people really of the attitude that you should show up with no time to spare?

    I’m prolly too hard-nosed (my dad’s a Marine) but, let’s face it, call-offs (attendance) and tardies (adherence) are really controllable by the employee. They may be the most in-control aspect of an employee’s job: show up, on time and ready to work at the start of your shift. Don’t show up frequently, late frequently, not ready to work at clock-in? Might not be the best arrangement.

    1. The problem is that many companies do NOT allow early arrival – in fact some won’t even allow you in the building till “check in” time, so coming early really isn’t an option.

      Half and hour – an hour late, is generally controllable. One minute? Not so controllable, especially given the above. And, in any case treating one minute and 1 hour the same is lunacy.

      As for dinging a person for being sent home sick? That’s just cruel. Especially since there is no indication of a rolling period here.

  12. If companies have a “can’t come in until your punch-in time” policy and then ding you, well, they’re just shooting themselves in the foot. I don’t buy it.

    What company would actually HAVE to start at precisely 9 am, know that their employees have to clock in in some manner, and then ding their employees if they can’t punch in at precisely 9 am because they have a single-point punch? In 30+ years of employment, I’ve not worked for any business that did not require some time to start up with Sups/MGRs needing to be there to get it ready for the hourlies. Employees are expected to SHOW UP prior to punch-in time…BY DEFINITION.

  13. The employee was not fired for a single occurrence. The employee was fired for exceeding eight points.You have hit on the common excuse for those with attendance problems: “but I was really sick this time” or “I was only a few minutes late this time.” This company appears to have a reasonable attendance policy. company should not fired the employess.because their are many problems related to his without reason we can not fire someone

  14. So — do employees get points for staying home sick, too? If so, that’s insane. If not, the employee in question should have just stayed home. (Yes, the flu comes on suddenly but odds are pretty good the employee was already feeling cruddy when they left the house.)

  15. I can tell you of at least one MAJOR employer in the States, who will “ding” an employee on their review based on the number of “instances”. If that employee was out for 4 days in a row, with a doctor’s note, that is considered 4 separate instances, however, if he stayed out the 5th day, it became 1 singular instance and only 1 mark, instead of 4, which knocks you down a full grade re-view time and DOES affect the employee’s increase.

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