General Question

livelaughlove21's avatar

Is this workplace attendance policy normal?

Asked by livelaughlove21 (15608points) May 15th, 2014

My husband has worked at this company for over 3 years. He gets two weeks of personal time off per year. They’re going through some changes in management and there’s a new policy. They still get two weeks paid leave, but all of it has to be pre-approved by a manager or else it counts against you. So, in essence, they’re penalized for getting sick and having to call in.

They’ve fired 2–3 people for “attendance” issues so far, including one guy that had been there for nearly 20 years. Considering the length of time he’s been there and the amount of time off he probably gets at this point, I can only assume it’s from taking his leave without it being pre-approved, possibly from getting sick, family emergency, etc.

Anytime people get fired at my husband’s job I get a little paranoid that he might be next. He hasn’t taken a day off since this new policy was put into place, but it makes me wonder if they’re firing people for “attendance issues” just as an excuse to get rid of a bunch of people or if there’s something else going on. I’m not asking if this is legal because, when it all comes down to it, they could fire anyone they want for no reason at all, but I’m wondering how common this type of thing is. I understand not wanting people to give you no notice before taking a day off, but penalizing employees for taking off when they have personal days left? I don’t know about that…just curious if anyone has ever heard of anything like this.

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32 Answers

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

My workplace also gives employees personal days, but personal days aren’t sick leave. They can call in sick, since they have sick leave, but have to get pre-approval for personal days.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt I should’ve made this clear. They don’t get separate sick days and personal days. It’s all just called “paid time off.” My job is the same way, but we’re certainly not penalized for calling in. It just counts toward your PTO.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I am not sure how a company can justify expecting you to know ahead of time if you are going to be sick. Maybe they are using the policy to weed out habitual non-attenders?

So no, I don’t think a policy like that is normal. Everyone gets sick once in a while, so if they company is going to hold that against people, they won’t have any employees in a year or two.

If I were your husband, I would go to work with colds, flu, and every other thing, and I would make sure I use the bosses telephone and cough in his office.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt Ha! Well I did find this. Not sure what effect, if any, this will have on his employer.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Yay! That sounds like a great bill. Let’s hope it passes. The only down side, is that your husband’s employer could fire him for some other reason, any other reason. Just like the anti-discrimination bills, employers can get around it. They can’t tell an employee to their face that they are being fired for taking a sick day, for being pregnant or being black, but they can let them go because of any vague reason.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt Yep. C’est la vie. :/

jca's avatar

When I hear about things like this, I realize how lucky those are who are members of unions. Unions have their faults, but they would protect workers from policies like this, policies put in place willy-nilly, seemingly to justify firing people.

This is not a typical policy, however, as your husband probably realizes, he’s at the mercy of the employer.

jerv's avatar

Sadly, as we deregulate more, this is becoming more common.

rojo's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt or people who had been there for many years and were making decent money and had a greater amount of vacation time.

keobooks's avatar

Does he work for a hospital or other medical entity? My husband has this same policy because his office is associated with a hospital. It makes sense if you are a nurse or doctor and your missing a day means a hole in the shift that’s already tight due to budget cuts. But it doesn’t make sense for almost everyone else in the establishment. Still, in order to make it “fair” everyone—including secretarial staff or people who set their own hours == have to follow the procedure.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@keobooks Nope. He assembles power tools for a living.

josie's avatar

I own a small business. If I take a personal day off I get nothing at all. If I take a vacation I get nothing at all. If I get sick, I get nothing at all. I pay for my medical insurance out of my own pocket. On the other hand, I pay my employees for all that.
Sorry. Not that sympathetic.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@josie You also don’t get fired for being too sick to work every now and then.

I never asked for your sympathy.

josie's avatar

I was aware of that when I refused to give it. The point is, everything sort of evens out in the end. Everybody has something to complain about.-

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

When it comes to calling in sick a couple of days every now and then I really don’t see a problem. If it is longer I understand if an employer wants a note from the doc. This sounds a little over the top IMO.

Seaofclouds's avatar

My work has a point system associated with the attendance policy. Call outs for whatever reason are given points based on how much notice was given, if it was a weekend, and if it was a holiday. We are also give points for being late or leaving early. After a certain number of points, we get a verbal warning, then written warning, then termination at 20 points in one rolling year. We also just have PTO, rather than sick/personal time.

There has to be a way to hold people accountable for their attendance at work.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

My friend Susie worked at a University where they screwed all the labor personnel in this manner.
She belonged to a Union. It didn’t help at all. They have hundreds of thousands of people dying to take your job as soon as you falter. And management knows it. So they tend to want to dump experienced personnel with all the years because their salaries have also risen with the years. If they dump the higher paid employee and hire much cheaper, younger (for the most part) talent, what do they care about the person there longer. It’s just business. Nothing personal.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@josie Who’s complaining? If anyone has complained here, it’s you. I simply asked if this was a common policy because I’d never heard of it. I’m not exactly out here stomping my foot and asking which congressman I should write to about this huge problem I’m having. Like I said above, c’est la vie. It is what it is. And any other cliche that might fit…

Pst, your bitter is showing.

jca's avatar

@Dan_Lyons: If the members of the union are under a contract, the employer could not just go in and change the terms of the contract. It’s a contract. Once the contract is up, the terms can be changed but only if both sides agree. If they agreed to this type of policy, they probably got something big in return (hopefully, or they’re an idiotic union).

Jaxk's avatar

This has been the practice every where I have ever worked. Paid time off is scheduled and approved. Sick time is tolerated but not an entitlement. I’ve never really understood why people think they should be paid whether they show up for work or not. If an employee doesn’t make it to work I have to find some one to cover that shift or work it myself. My opinion is that if I have to work it myself, I don’t need that employee. It really doesn’t matter why the employee didn’t show up, the result is the same. Whether they were sick, their spouse was sick, their kid was sick, they want to go to the national protest the minimum wage rally, or they just wanted to go fishing, I don’t care. You want to work for me, you show up for work, ON TIME.

jca's avatar

People are not robots and they do get sick. They get diseases, they sprain ligaments and break bones, they get into car accidents, they get viruses where they hack and cough and sneeze. They may get surgery or have major dental work where they’re on painkillers or recovering from anesthesia. Will that person be working any time soon? Probably not. Is an employer going to say “don’t get that surgery?” “While you’re employed for me, you won’t be getting that root canal!” “Your wife needs chemo? Too bad. You won’t be taking her!”

I, for one, don’t want contagious people around me at work, if I can help it. If someone has the flu, do I want them in my office? Fuck no.

If an employer were to fire people for being sick, that employer would very likely have a high turnover, and therefore, would be spending lots of time training new employees.

@Jaxk: There’s a difference between someone being sick and someone wanting to go fishing.

jca's avatar

@Jaxk: One more thing (relating to your above comment and my response): A good employee will want to do better, and will do better and be more productive, when they are employed by a good employer who values them and treats them humanely. A cruel and heartless boss who treats employees like robots will get way less out of their work force. Having an attitude like you display will not help you as an employer. You may come back and say how you have employees who do good work and you may tell me how long you’ve been an employer and you know so much, but I can assure you, if you have an attitude like you describe above, you won’t have people who strive to go above and beyond. Employees are human and humans get sick.

Jaxk's avatar


Things like surgery or root canals are generally scheduled. If you think that it is OK to let me know about a dentist appointment by calling in sick, we will have a problem. If I call in sick on payday how understanding do you suppose you’d be to wait until Monday for your paycheck. I expect the same from my employees that I give. An occasional illness will not cause us a problem but repeated illnesses will. I hire people because I have work to be done. If I can’t depend on it getting done, I will get someone else to do it. The best employee in the world isn’t worth shit if they don’t show up at work.

jca's avatar

@Jaxk: I went by your comment where you said fishing is equivalent to being out sick.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown. You are the business owner, you make an arrangement if you are out sick yet you lose when the company loses and you profit when the company gains. The employee gets paid – that’s the reason they’re not the business owner.

Jaxk's avatar

@jca – It is. There is no difference whether you are sick or playing hooky as far as getting the job done. As far as going fishing, it may surprise you to learn that employees sometimes call in sick when not really sick.

jca's avatar

@jaxk: It might surprise you that I work for a union and between that and my previous job there is very little that I haven’t seen or heard. However you are aware that people get sick? They also have family members that get sick as well. God forbid someone’s wife gets cancer and he has to take her to treatment. He would be fired for being unreliable? It’s employers like that who were the reason for the creation of FMLA.

Jaxk's avatar


I’m not at all surprised. You are aware of course that cancer treatments are typically scheduled. I only ask for the same treatment you’d give anyone else. I know you want to make this as hard as possible (probably your union training) but it is not all that difficult. I do find it curious that you would believe that I should pay sick days for everyone in your family. Makes even more difficult to come to any kind of consensus. I have no idea what FMLA is nor why they were created.

jca's avatar

@Jaxk: I chose chemo treatment because it’s severely debilitating, but perhaps it wasn’t a good example, because as you know, many illnesses (and thus, their treatments) are not things that we plan for.

I don’t want to make anything “as hard as possible” for you. I am giving you examples of times when someone may be ill and not have planned for it. Dental treatment and chemo, yes, usually planned for. However, I don’t know when the last time anybody you know had a heart attack, stroke, car accident, broke a bone, flu, etc. had recurring cancer that suddenly left them bedbound, or a host of other examples, but it’s not something people want to have happen and not something that normally can be planned for (“I think today’s the day I’ll have my heart attack!”).

FMLA is the Family Medical Leave Act, which is a law that covers employees and gives them up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in case of illness or illness of a family member, birth of a child or adoption of a child. It’s so that employers don’t have the idea that they can fire employees for illness or birth of a child. Is it “sick days for everyone in the family?” Not really. It’s unpaid, and at my employer, it’s after you use up all of your other time (vacation, personal, sick). But there’s no firing people if you don’t approve of their heart attack, or their baby got sick at a time that was inconvenient for your business, just to name a few.

Read here if you are interested:

Jaxk's avatar


The emergencies you describe are not grounds for firing by my rules but I don’t expect to have them occur on a regular basis. If you do have a heart attack every month, however it will become a problem.

As for the FMLA I would have known what you meant if you had used the name rather than initials (I though it was the name of your union). As you said family leave is unpaid and in most cases scheduled 30 days ahead.

We seem to be missing each other on a couple of points. First getting sick is not grounds for immediate termination. It is a blemish on your record and continuing occurrences will cause problems.

Second scheduled is quite different than unscheduled. If you tell me today that you need tomorrow off, generally I have no problem. If you call in sick I do. Scheduling around an absence is quite different than getting up in the middle of the night to run down and cover your shift.

The truth is most people aren’t really sick very often. Hung over maybe but not sick. And if you are one of those sickly people that are frequently ill, we are both better off if you work somewhere more tolerant to absences.

jca's avatar

@Jaxk: Gotcha. It’s a bit of backdown from your original statement about fishing being equivalent to being sick.

Also, family leave (and leave for one’s own health) may not be scheduled ahead. In the many examples I gave above (heart attack, etc.) there’s no planning involved. Adoptions may not be, either.

No, in my case I’m rarely sick and I’m never hung over. I do have a child that gets sick on occasion, but I usually have family help with that. The three times I took more than a few days off were for my child’s birth, an illness that I got suddenly and being in an auto accident. The first thing was planned for, the second two were not. I am glad to know, though, that if something should arise, I am covered under the law and my contract.

Jaxk's avatar


I’m not sure how calling in sick is any different than going fishing. As I said before, the impact is exactly the same and there is no way for me to tell which is the real reason. I’m not willing to chase you down or monitor your activities to determine the truth of the matter. If you do either too many times, we have a problem.

jca's avatar

@Jaxk: OK, nuff said. This is going round and round like tigers around the tree. If you, as a human being, can’t figure out the difference between a sick person and a fishing person, I’m not the one to explain it to you. Thank God for laws.

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