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Judges affirm employer's attendance policy is unreasonable

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A company lost on appeal its argument that it had just cause to fire an employee after seven absences from work. The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with previous findings that the company’s attendance policy is unreasonable.

Employer P.M.T. argued that it had just cause to terminate L.A. because she knowingly violated the attendance policy by taking more than seven absences in a year. Employees are allowed seven absences in a 12-month period, and if an employee accumulates more, he or she will be fired. The policy only allows for jury duty as an excused absence. If a person is out for multiple days due to illness, a doctor’s note will reduce the period to just one day. The policy doesn’t provide exemptions for verified emergencies, and if someone wants to take time off, it must be scheduled two weeks in advance.

L.A. worked for the company for five years and had requested leave through the Family Medical Leave Act to take care of her terminally ill husband. She had two emergency absences – one due to her own health and one that dealt with her husband – that caused her to miss work and put her over the maximum allowed absences, so P.M.T. fired her.

She applied for unemployment and was ultimately awarded those benefits. An administrative law judge found P.M.T.’s attendance policy was unreasonable as a matter of law and the company failed to sufficiently maintain records showing L.A. knowingly violated the policy. The Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development agreed.

In P.M.T., Inc. v. Review Board of the Indiana Dept. of Workforce Development and L.A., No. 93A02-1105-EX-389, the Court of Appeals also found P.M.T.’s policy to be unreasonable based on the lack of exemptions for both extended personal illness and verified emergencies. The court found that the policy in place doesn’t protect its employees as is required by Jeffboat Inc. v. Rev. Board of Ind. Emp’t Sec. Div., 464 N.E.2d 377, 380 (Ind. Ct. App. 1984). The policy doesn’t protect employees with legitimate reasons for an absence and is contrary to the stated intention of the Legislature to “provide for payment of benefits to persons unemployed through no fault of their own,” wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik, citing Indiana Code 22-4-1-1.

The appellate court also found that L.A.’s absences that resulted in her termination were a result of circumstances beyond her control.

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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