Start Your FREE Membership NOW
 Discover Proven Ways to Be a Better Medical Office Manager
 Get Our Daily eNewsletter, MOMAlert, and MUCH MORE
 Absolutely NO Risk or Obligation on Your Part -- It's FREE!

Upgrade to Premium Membership NOW for Just $90!
Get 3 Months of Full Premium Membership Access
Includes Our Monthly Newsletter, Office Toolbox, Policy Center, and Archives
Plus, You Get FREE Webinars, and MUCH MORE!

Dealing with the runaround when an employee stalls about coming back to work

An employee with a history of documented performance issues claimed they were in a car accident that rendered their vehicle inoperable. The employee began missing work first due to their lack of transportation, then for various medical appointments, though they refused or were unable to provide a proper doctor’s note to justify their prolonged absence. The employer was wondering how to address this issue in a way that was respectful of the severity of the situation while also protecting the practice’s interests.

Part of being a great manager is understanding that life happens outside of the office and making space for the issues that come along with that, says Paul Edwards, CEO and founder of Cedr Solutions.

That being said, he adds, there’s also a level of reciprocity that’s expected in these situations. The employee may be in a difficult position but, being short handed, so are you. Your employee should therefore give you the same respect you give them, and they’re still responsible for communicating with you so that you can (hopefully) find a solution to the problem together.

“It’s important to note that these types of issues tend to be very nuanced and the way you handle them will depend on the specific circumstances at play, what the time-off policies in your employee handbook say, and the laws in your state related to protected time off. Without knowing your exact policies and what exactly was said and when, it’s impossible to provide exact guidance on how much time you should give an employee to comply with your requests before terminating them,” says Edwards.

“When an issue like this comes up for your business, the best thing you can do is reach out to a qualified HR professional to verify what the laws in your state say about protected time off, to assess your risk based on the options available to you, and to work together to create a game plan for how to move forward and escalate your handling of the problem, if needed.

“Before jumping to the conclusion that this employee is trying to pull the wool over your eyes about what is really going on, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions. For instance, did the employee communicate their issue in a timely manner, or did they wait until the last possible moment to let you know that they will be unavailable? Are they being clear about their expected time table for returning to work? Or are they avoiding that topic and pushing their expected return date out further with each successive conversation? Are they making a good-faith effort to get you the documentation you need for your records in a timely manner and being transparent about their efforts to do so? Does the employee have a history of performance issues and, if so, are they properly documented?” says Edwards.

“In this case, the employee seemed to be trying to extend the time they could take off without giving the employer a direct answer as to what they needed in order to be able to return to work. This, combined with a history of documented poor performance and the inability to fulfill the employer’s request to provide a doctor’s note justifying their extended absence, raised some red flags.

“So, rather than the issue being about the employee’s absence due to an unfortunate circumstance, the problem at hand became one of the employee’s lack of communication and inability or unwillingness to follow procedure.

“In this instance, the state the employer was in did not have any laws about protected leave in place, so the employer was okay to address the absences per their time-off policy.

“Since the employee was being vague about when they would be able to get a doctor’s note, it became incumbent on this employer to box the employee in and reiterate that they needed a legitimate doctor’s note to excuse their absences, and to inform the employer about whether the employee needs to remain out from work. The employer set a deadline for when this employee needed to provide the doctor’s note and let the employee know that they were expected to be at their next shift following that deadline unless their healthcare provider said otherwise,” says Edwards.

When going back and forth with an employee on an issue like this, it’s important to make sure you document any and all conversations you have with them about the issue, he advises.

“In this particular case, since there were already documented performance issues on file, the employer was likely to be in a good spot if they did end up terminating  due to the employee’s inability or unwillingness to comply with the employer’s requests for information and documentation,” he concludes.










Try Premium Membership