The Mailbag.

AuthorDelogu, Nancy

If employee won't sign the handbook acknowledgment form, what can we do?

Q We updated our policy manual and are asking employees to sign a standard acknowledgment of receipt form. If an employee refuses to sign it, is that grounds for termination? Or should we just document that the person refused to sign?

-- C.C., Texas

  1. Either approach is going to be fine, and legal. I have known a few employers that will terminate an individual who refuses to sign a basic acknowledgment of receipt. Often, however, employers will accept the fact that the employee has refused to sign. When this happens, I typically advise the employer to notify the employee (and document the notification) that the policies and procedures still apply to that individual.

    Employees may refuse to sign for a variety of reasons. If you feel the person seems to be refusing to sign because of an unwillingness to comply with those policies, you may not want to continue employing that person. However, if someone is refusing to sign because he or she can't understand the policies, I'd suggest a different approach.

    Can we have different attendance policies for different departments in our company?

    QDuring the pandemic, each department in our company eventually created its own attendance rules, including how to apply (and waive) absence points. Should we allow this to continue now, or should we develop one single attendance policy for the whole organization?--A.P., Virginia

  2. Your current policy is legally risky. Having a variety of different approaches to counting attendance "points" could lead to claims of discrimination. Also, some departments may have fallen into practices that would be considered unfair to individuals with disabilities or to those who are using FMLA.

    You face other legal risks, too. Federal transportation regulations may require employers to excuse absences when an employee is too sick to drive safely, or you may have collective bargaining agreements for some workers. There may be additional laws or due process requirements for workers in the public sector.

    In short, there are many good reasons to harmonize your various attendance policies as much as possible in order to promote consistency and compliance.

    Doctor says employee is OK to return, but we think he's not; what now?

    Q An employee got drunk at home, fell down his stairs and was diagnosed with swelling of the brain. He returned with no restrictions from his doctor, but he's exhibiting mentally challenged...

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