Periodically, we present a real-life workplace problem and ask three HR managers to provide a solution. This week’s problem: A good employee is out of leave, including FMLA, but needs a medical absence.
“Hey, Sandy,” said supervisor Joel Duff. “Do you have a minute?”
“Sure,” said Sandy Warren, the company HR manager.
“It’s about Gwen Rossdale,” Joel said.
“How’s she doing since she got back from her mother’s funeral?” Sandy asked.
“Well, that’s the thing. She’s really been hit hard this year,” Joel said. “Now she needs to go back in for another surgery.”
No time left
“I think I see where you’re going with this,” Sandy said. “She already used all her FMLA leave for her last surgery, didn’t she?”
“Yeah. And, she had used up all of her sick days before the surgery,” Joel added. “She only has one vacation day left because she took a week to get her mother’s affairs in order.”
“Wow, this really is a tough situation,” Sandy said. “She just doesn’t have any more days left.”
“I know. But Gwen is a great worker,” Joel noted. “She’s been here for more than five years, and her attendance records have been great until recently.”
“Do we know how long she would need to be out for this surgery?” Sandy asked.
“She brought in a note from her doctor that said it would be another six weeks or so,” Joel answered. “She’s really upset about this. She’s even talked of postponing the surgery, but her doctor thinks she needs it now.”
“Well, we certainly don’t want her to do anything that would jeopardize her health,” Sandy said.
If you were Sandy, what would you do or say next?
Christine Hoffer, HR director, Brewster, OH
What Christine would do: This is definitely a sensitive situation. Going over the different options with the employee and the supervisor might be helpful. We’d probably have to terminate the employee, but then encourage her to re-apply when she got better. I would do my best to find a spot for her.
Reason: I need to be able to replace that person or else it would be a real hardship for our company. But I can usually find a spot for a good person when she’s ready to come back.
Barry Touinen, HR manager, Fullerton, CA
What Barry would do: Well, the main thing is that if we have good employees with good attendance we’re going to look out for them. We’re more likely to hold their jobs. If it’s going to be six weeks, I’m not sure we’d pay her for the whole time, but we certainly wouldn’t let her lose her job.
Reason: We believe that good employees who are dedicated workers should get something back from the company. Bad luck happens, and you don’t want to abandon people in a difficult time.
Joyce Hogan, HR manager, Cleveland, TN
What Joyce would do: There are a couple of different options in this scenario. In our company, sick days carry over and you can accumulate up to 90, so that might be an option. Or, we offer short and long term disability. We would really want to work with employees in this situation to look out for their best interests and ours – which means keeping them on board.
Reason: We don’t want to lose loyal, dedicated employees. We want to be good to them so they’ll stay around. That’s why we have processes in place to deal with this situation.