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Feb04

Break Time Abuse

At our company we are allowed two 15 minute paid breaks, one before and one after lunch. All employees are required to use a time clock, and must punch out with a ‘break’ punch which logs the time, but does not deduct from their hours. I have an employee who punches out for the full 15 minutes allowed, but despite punching back in, she continues her break activities for an additional 5-10 minutes each break period. I verbally discussed this with her 9 months ago, and she was written up when the behavior continued. After being written up, the the abuse of time stopped. This employee does good work and for the past 9 months has not had an issue. I recently moved her to a bigger desk, out of my line of sight, and gave her additional responsibility and a raise. With this location move, she has now resumed abusing both breaks each day. Our company doesn’t have an HR contact, so it’s up to me to deal with this behavior, and am unsure of the next step to take. She was given this promotion due to her turn around in performance, and now I’m left wondering how to handle this. Thank you,

It’s advisable to use progressive disciplinary actions similar to what you did when the issue of abusing break times initially occurred.

Progressive discipline provides a graduated range of responses to employee performance issues. Disciplinary actions range from verbal warnings, written warnings, suspensions, up to termination, depending upon the frequency and severity of the issue.

Progressive discipline is beneficial to both employers and employees. Immediately communicating an issue with an employee allows him/her to correct the behavior before it becomes a significant problem. Open communication improves employee productivity and morale by establishing clear guidelines of expected behavior. Also, progressive discipline ensures fair, equitable responses to employee problems; thus, decreasing the risk of a wrongful termination suit.

Verbally counsel the employee. Inform her that she received the promotion because of her good performance and ability to correct substandard behavior. Strongly state what you expect of her in her new role, including being able to deliver high performance while adhering to company policy more independently than in her prior position. Explain that you noticed her abusing break times again and you expect her to continue the great performance that led her to receive the promotion.

Sometimes employees, even good ones, need reminders of what is expected of them in the workplace. Be clear of your concern but also be supportive in helping her adapt to the new position.

If the break time abuse continues a written warning should be issued. Reiterate the same information that was used in the verbal warning. Express that you will continue to monitor the employee’s performance and expect her to follow the break policy. Include the consequences for further abuse such as additional written warnings and, possibly, termination. Written warnings should be written in a clear, factual manner. Avoid emotional statements or opinions. Make sure the document is dated and signed by both parties.

Allow the employee an opportunity to respond to the disciplinary action, whether it is a verbal or written response. Though the purpose of a disciplinary action is to correct the behavior, it’s also a chance to engage in interactive communication with the employee.

When an employee continues to disobey directives regarding a simple issue as breaks, there are usually other concerns as well. Monitor the employee’s behavior and address each problem as it arises. Continue to follow progressive discipline procedures; verbal warning, written warning, possible second written warning, suspension, up to termination. Remember the punishment should fit the crime and each disciplinary action should be documented for your reference.

It seems the employee in question is a good worker. Hopefully, a gentle reminder of what is expected of her in the workplace will be enough to stop the poor behavior.

We hope this information is helpful and you continue to use our blog as a resource!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015 at 2:31 pm and is filed under
Performance Management.
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