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unreasonable discipline?

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  • unreasonable discipline?

    I live in Michigan, and a co-worker just had an incident at work. They only allow a certain number of time off (sick time, etc), and he used them up. Due to his mother's emergency surgery yesterday, he had to take the day off. Well, for his discipline, he not only gets 3 unpaid days off from work now, but while he's off, he has to do a book report (a book they chose, not work-related), and an essay on why the company should keep him employed. Can they do that? If they're making him do work on his unpaid days off, shouldn't he be compensated for that? Aren't those things a tad outrageous?

  • #2
    It's unusual, I'll say that for them. Someone is thinking creatively.

    Neither the book report nor the essay is illegal, and while I don't believe it has to be compensated time, I'll let Patty say for sure.

    It may or may not be legal for them to require him to take three unpaid days off. It will depend on whether or not the absence he is being penalized for qualifies for FMLA or not.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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    • #3
      OK, now the essay and the book report, that is SO off the wall I'm just doing some educated guessing here. The essay? Not compensatory time; the time should be negligible anyway. The book report on a non-job related issue? By some stretch of the imagination, maybe. Your co-worker needs to call the state Dept. of Labor and inquire. This is a subject that has never come up in the 27 years I've been in this line of work.
      I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Pattymd
        This is a subject that has never come up in the 27 years I've been in this line of work.
        Well, I'm glad to be here and push your envelope of thinking. Umm... ok. No, not really. Thanks for all the info, though. I will let him know.

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        • #5
          Funny you should bring this up....

          I worked for a trucking company that had some similar discipline tactics.

          As far as the 3 days without pay goes, this very well could be illegal, depending upon whether or not you and your situation qualify. BTW, for the rest of you who might be interested. I had someone with federal DOL recently (in the last 6 months) tell me that provided all other requirements are met, a "surgery" will always qualify as a "serious medical condition" by the DOL, no matter how minor, because of the inherent risks of treatment. In other words, "surgery" will always qualify a condition as "serious" because of the risks of death, brain damage, permanent coma, due to anesthesia. This came up because I had an employee request FMLA leave for a 1 day absence for the day surgery of his daughter (ear tubes); he didn't want to lose his perfect attendance award. I didn't think it would FMLA qualify because chronic otitis media and externa (ear infections) are, at least in my opinion, not serious conditions. The DOL told me that the course of treatment can also qualify the condition as serious; as such, any doctor will tell you how serious anesthesia is because of its potential risks....for what it's worth.

          I do also know about the essay and book report thing. We had an incident at this trucking company that I worked for. Black male and hispanic female cursed and yelled at white female during an open house event (lots of big names, customers, and family around). White female got no discipline. Black male had to copy our "Company X Workplace Attitudes Manual" during worktime after his unpaid suspension. Hispanic female had to copy the same, but was forced copy during the unpaid suspension. They ended up terminating the hispanic female. To my understanding, hispanic female took the company for a financial cleaning, for several reasons that I have not elaborated on here. But to your point, the DOL agreed that the three days that she was suspened and copying the manual were compensable. They felt this way because reading manuals (or books), taking notes, writing correspondence (like the letter your friend has to write convincing them not to terminate), making telephone calls, responding to e-mails, etc., is always compensable time, and the FLSA makes no distinction between what is compensable and what is not compensable on the basis of discipline. In other words, stupid busy work is still work, and work is compensable under the law.

          BTW, the hispanic female. I told them not to fire her. She was female, over 40, doubly hispanic (half Mexican, half Puerto Rican), with multiple know disabilities and two terminal illnesses....YET her performance was still very high. REAL STUPID MOVE ON THEIR PART....
          Last edited by bears00; 12-10-2005, 11:15 PM.

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          • #6
            Bears, it sounded like he was being suspended without pay for the 3 days, which is perfectly legal. OP, is that correct?
            I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by slavelabor
              Well, for his discipline, he not only gets 3 unpaid days off from work now, but while he's off, he has to do a book report (a book they chose, not work-related), and an essay on why the company should keep him employed. Can they do that? If they're making him do work on his unpaid days off, shouldn't he be compensated for that? Aren't those things a tad outrageous?
              Patty,

              You are perfectly correct as usual. Suspension without pay is in fact very legal. As a matter of fact, as I have seen you post around here, there is no requirement by law that everyone be treated the same. However, what makes slavelabor's post questionable is that his co-worker is being required to do work during an uncompensated suspension. In my previous post I mentioned a case where federal DOL sided with the employee. In this case, slavelabor specifically stated that his co-worker is required to do "work" during "his unpaid days off." I maintain that stupid busy work, is still work, and work is compensable under the law.
              Last edited by bears00; 12-11-2005, 07:48 PM.

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