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Suspending an Hourly Employee

Is is ok to suspend or dock an hourly employee for a week for a minor infraction? This one is regarding missing a meeting when the employee was granted a two week vacation?

Unpaid suspensions for one to seven days are lawful, but they should be reserved for the most serious transgressions at work, such as bringing a weapon to work or sexually harassing another employee. They should not be used for minor infractions.

In most states, it is unlawful to dock an employees salary for disciplinary purposes. If the employee works, they must be paid. However, it is lawful to suspend an employee by giving him or her time off without pay — with the stipulations mentioned above.

If the employee were not on vacation, many employers would not consider missing a meeting a minor infraction. Missing a mandatory meeting is comparable to missing any other scheduled shift. In particular, it can be seen to send a disrespectful message to a new manager. However, the situation is different when the employee is on vacation.

There is absolutely no expectation that an employee on vacation should attend meetings or any other work functions. An employee on vacation is on vacation, as in not working for the entire period. It is completely unreasonable to expect an employee to work even a few minutes while on vacation. Presumably, this vacation was approved in advance. That means management knew from the beginning that the employee would be absent from the meeting. Obviously if the employee was spending her vacation in Europe, you would not expect her to fly back for a two-hour meeting. The same expectations apply to an employee who is spending her vacation at home. On vacation means on vacation, or not working at all.

It is important to keep the purpose of paid vacations in mind. Studies have shown that taking a week or more away from work, with pay, actually increases an employees productivity throughout the year. Employees who are paid for 52 weeks but work only 50, actually accomplish more than employees who work all 52 weeks. Therefore, it is in your best interest as an employer to ensure that your employees take their full two weeks of vacation uninterrupted, so they can return to work relaxed and refreshed.

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This entry was posted on Monday, January 9th, 2012 at 7:18 am and is filed under
Management / Leadership Development.
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