I received a question from a client who uses my HR HelpLine Service about an employee who has apparently abandoned his job. Here is the client’s question and my advice on how to handle it:
Client Question: We have an employee who has gone MIA (he has done this in the past also, apparently he has a significant drinking problem). We are in the process of terminating him for absenteeism and failing to show up for scheduled shifts. We have called his cell phone numerous times with no success at connecting with him. Is there anything we need to do on our end other than to document the reason(s) for his termination? Should we send a letter of termination to him?
Answer: To begin, your desire to terminate is because the employee has an absenteeism problem and has failed to call in when absent, consistent with your policy. Do not discuss the alleged issue of drinking. This is not an issue unless you actually see him drinking on the job or he admits he was drinking. Stick with the issues you know: he has not shown up for his scheduled shifts and he has not called in to inform you of his absences.
Note: Employers should never accuse or suggest that someone has been drinking or has a drinking problem. You should only discuss performance related issues. Stick to what you know or what you observe. Do not surmise, diagnose, or act simply on rumors. Focus on observable behaviors. In this case: no call, no show—repeatedly.
Since you have tried to contact him a number of times without success, you can move forward with the termination for job abandonment. Send a certified letter, return receipt. Tell him after continued absences and his failure to call in to inform you of his absence; and after your repeatedly calling him to find out where he was, you are terminating his employment due to job abandonment, consistent with your policy, as outlined in your employee handbook. Keep the letter short. You should also keep in the file his record of absences and the days and times you tried to contact him. Note that you left messages for him to call you and he did not do this.
Pay him all monies owed including any unused, accrued vacation time.
If he should contact you with a legitimate reason for not contacting you and working, then you may have to reconsider your decision. But multiple violations of your attendance and call in policy constitutes job abandonment.
If you have employee questions, call our HR HelpLine. I provide operational advice, not legal advice, on how to address difficult employee issues.