April 2021 Update
Has management ever issued you a letter of warning, notice of suspension, or notice of removal? If so, there is more than a 90% chance it was for attendance. How do I know this? That’s what our grievance activity on discipline tells me. This means that if you are removed from your employment with the Postal Service there is a 90% chance that it will be for attendance. I’m hoping this has grabbed your attention
This month’s column may be a little different. It will explore attendance requirements and will identify proactive steps you can take to protect your job. This column is for everyone, but it is particularly geared to those in the early years of their Postal employment.
Discipline for attendance identifies a deficiency or contains a charge. It alleges that you “Failed to be regular in attendance” or “Failed to maintain a regular work schedule.” This is based on regulations in the Employee and Labor Relations Manual which say that employees must be “regular in attendance.” But what is regular in attendance? That’s a good question.
Exploring what constitutes regular in attendance may raise more questions than answers. “Failure to be regular in attendance” is a frequency charge. It contemplates that during some period of time someone has had too many absences. But what period of time and how many absences? That is not defined anywhere and whether someone has failed to be regular in attendance is a fact specific determination that must be made on a case-by-case basis. If you’re starting to think this means nobody knows you’re starting to see the problem.
I won’t profess to be an expert on what constitutes regular attendance; and if I was, I wouldn’t be writing about it on the internet. I can, however, shape out some broad presumptions. Someone who has missed 1 day in the last 6 months has probably been regular in attendance. Someone who hasn’t been to work for the last 8 weeks may have been irregular in attendance. Although, that absence may be result of an FMLA condition, an on-the-job injury, or related to COVID-19. Some absences are protected and may not be used to issue discipline.
Learning what absences are protected is an important step you can take to proactively protect yourself from attendance related discipline. If you are eligible and have an FMLA related condition request FMLA. Management will not hesitate to point out that you didn’t request FMLA when issuing discipline. See your Union Representative if you need help or have questions. That’s what we’re here for.
If you receive discipline for attendance (or any other reason) contact your Union Representative immediately. We are here to protect your rights. Never consider any disciplinary action trivial. Everyone removed from the Postal Service for attendance started on that road with a Letter of Warning. Always grieve any disciplinary action you receive.
This column has one bizarre aspect. I took a shot at trying to explain something I don’t know. It’s true. After close to 37 years in the Postal Service, more than 3 decades as a Representative, and more than 2 decades as your Local President, I can’t tell you what it means to be regular in attendance. Maybe it’s a good thing it’s not my responsibility to inform you of management’s rules. That responsibility rests solely with the supervisor who’s been there 2 years or the 204-b who’s been there 9 months. Does anyone else see a problem with this? This definately underscores the importance of being proactive.
Still, inquiring minds want to know. Maybe we can work together to resolve the question. Feel free to ask your supervisor what it means to be regular in attendance. Keep track of the supervisor’s name, the date, the answer you receive, and provide a copy to your Steward. If you’re told it means that you come to work every day, ask for a Steward and file a grievance. Coming to work every day is perfect attendance and there is no rule requiring anyone to have perfect attendance.
Having a record of the supervisors’ answers may be helpful when they issue attendance related discipline. We can’t, however, discount the possibility that they might not know either. And, if they don’t know, that raises the question of how they're supposed to tell you. But that’s a topic for the grievance procedure.