Institutes of higher education rely on a stable and dependable workforce – professors, deans, administrators, and non-instructional staff included – to fulfill their academic promise to students and serve as cultural cornerstones of the community.
As a college or university employee, the expertise and talents you bring to your organization are what make you an asset. High expectations around attendance and punctuality are a testament to your value. These expectations may include procedures around authorized and unauthorized absences, tardiness, leaving early, extending meal or break periods, no-call/no-show, and so on.
For example, at the University of Rochester in New York, Policy Number 152 outlines what it calls a “reasonable standard of attendance.” Examples of misconduct include “failure to record or improper recording of time,” “wasting time,” and “excessive unapproved and unprotected absences.” The policy also details supervisors' obligations to employees, such as ensuring a well-publicized “system for reporting and recording attendance” and establishing “a favorable climate for good attendance.”
Know Your Employee Handbook or Policy Guide
Traditionally, employers publish attendance policies in a human resources employee handbook or policy guide, such as the example above. It is their obligation to ensure you have received, understand, and agree to clearly articulated policies.
By adhering to the policies, you help your employer maintain adequate and predictable staffing levels, key to the successful operation of institutes of higher education.
Violation of a University or College Attendance Policy
When there is a breach – perceived or real – of a school's attendance policy for faculty and staff, the employer should promptly address the issue with the employee according to its published procedures. This is an opportunity to resolve any issues and seek clarification on expectations or other concerns. This might include discussing extenuating circumstances such as a family emergency or a health concern. Contact attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento as soon as you learn of the investigation for guidance through this important stage in the process.
Employers May Use Progressive Discipline
Sometimes the employee does not or cannot adequately address their employer's concerns during the warning phase. Most employers in higher education follow a progressive disciplinary process, with the goal of ensuring you have the support and resources you need to meet the expectations of your role. While every organization is different, this may include requiring your supervisor or human resource department to issue verbal or written warnings or meet with you before disciplining or discharging you.
Facing Allegations of Absenteeism
Understandably, facing disciplinary action related to absenteeism or tardiness can be frightening and stressful – especially if you are already dealing with circumstances contributing to any problems. It might feel overwhelming, and you may be coping with a lot of emotions.
Remember that, above all, most colleges and universities want to retain their faculty and staff. If you fear being formally disciplined, suspended, or terminated due to unsatisfactory attendance, you and your attorney-advisor must work with your employer to address concerns head-on. Joseph D. Lento specializes in college employee disciplinary issues - call his office for help today.
Know Your Employer's Obligations to Staff
Addressing concerns head-on can start with learning about your options and rights, including actions you may be able to take related to physical or mental health, family support, or other extraordinary circumstances.
Take a step back and review your employer's policies thoroughly to understand what avenues of recourse are available to you, and contact an experienced academic-affairs attorney like Joseph D. Lento for a consultation.
Although every institution is unique, there are some key themes to consider. Your attorney will look for evidence that your employer:
- clearly articulated, in writing, their attendance policy to you.
- received your written acknowledgement of attendance policies and employee handbook.
- consistently and equitably applied their attendance policy and disciplinary measures.
- sufficiently documented the issue at hand with accurate and detailed records.
- adhered to all steps in their progressive discipline policy, including verbal warnings, written warnings, meetings with your supervisor, and so on.
- adhered to state and federal laws, such as FMLA and Title IX.
- addressed their concerns in performance evaluations.
- wrongly, and potentially unlawfully, overlooked extraordinary circumstances, such as an unpredicted illness, life event, or emergency outside of your control.
- may be in violation of singling out a protected category such as gender or race.
Navigating Allegations of Absenteeism or Tardiness
With this in mind, if you feel your employer has not satisfied their role in some way, or that you are being (or will be) wrongfully disciplined, you have options. An attorney like Joseph D. Lento, who specializes in college employee defense, can help you determine whether your employer adequately followed standards of conduct when taking corrective action against you. Employers are required to apply disciplinary actions consistently and equitably across the entire institution.
Regardless of what classification you fall under – faculty, academic staff, limited appointee, coach, or other – you do not have to face this alone. The experienced team at the Lento Law Firm specializes in defending college employees by reviewing charges, holding universities accountable, and reaching the best possible outcomes for their clients.
Above all, do not feel hopeless. Even the most valued and distinguished employees face disciplinary action related to absenteeism and lateness from time to time. We are all human, and life happens. Remember that despite how distressing this process can be, your attorney-advisor is there to help.
Protecting Employees Facing Attendance-Related Discipline
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team advise and represent college and university employees accused of absenteeism or related misconduct. They start by meeting with you to gather essential information that helps clarify your position. The goal is to help you reach a fair and satisfying conclusion to the allegations. Schedule a consultation by calling 888-535-3686 or chat with us live online.