Medical Leave and No Fault Attendance Policies

Many large companies have “no fault” attendance policies, where an employee gets a point or half a point for every absence or for being late regardless of the reason for that. Often these kinds of attendance policies are part of the negotiated bargaining agreement between the union and the employer. Under that policy, once the employee accumulates a certain number of points, he is automatically terminated. Such attendance policies do not override the state and federal laws that provide for disability and medical leave, and time off due to qualifying disability or a medical condition should never be counted toward the above-mentioned points. However, it is critical that you notify your management and HR as soon as possible that the reason for any given absence is your medical condition or a disability. If you don’t put your employer on notice, then employer will have no obligation to protect you from the consequences of their policy.

Some employee, who are very concerned about their medical privacy, do not disclose any significant details about their medical condition and choose to be vague and say “I wasn’t feeling well.” This kind of general statement does not put the employer on notice that you have a “serious” medical condition within FMLA/CFRA or that you might have a disability within FEHA or ADA. When your job and disability rights are in jeopardy, this is not the time to safeguard your medical confidentiality, but instead you should find out what information your employer needs in order to be properly informed that you need time off due to the medical reason and possibly other accommodations.