State Employees’ Rights and AWOL

There are a few basic things every California state employee should know about the AWOL policies that agencies have the right to invoke how these agencies can use and abuse this policy to wrongfully terminate state workers:

* AWOL stands of “Absent Without Leave”. It was enacted to prevent abuses of time off by state employees and allow agencies to terminate its employees by invoking the AWOL statute.

* Generally, an employee who is absent without approved leave for 5 consecutive days, may be deemed AWOL and be separated from his state service.

There are two main reasons for legal controversy and litigation surrounding AWOL:

1. The fact that leave needs to be “approved”. This is ironic, because your manager is the one deciding whether to approve your leave, and if he decides not to for whatever reasons, then you are considered absent without leave;

2. Invoking AWOL is discretionary. in other words, the agency doesn’t have to but it may invoke AWOL against an employee who has been absent for five or more consecutive days. An agency can also wait for longer than five days or decide not to invoke AWOL at all. Imagine the unfairness created by a manger who AWOL separates one employee after 5 consecutive days of absence, separates another after 10 days, and lets some other employee get away with being absent for even longer.

One of the typical situations where AWOL is being abused and gives rise to a wrongful termination claim is when AWOL policy conflicts with an employee’s ADA disability rights and need for an accommodation.