Job Abandonment and the Employer’s Responsibilities

  • Posted by: J. Kent Gervasini |
  • 2/6/17 |
  • 11:02 AM
  • 1661 Views
Job Abandonment and the Employer’s Responsibilities


J. Kent Staffing, as a provider of a contingent, temporary workforce to thousands of Denver employers since 1979, recognizes that job abandonment occurs in every position whether full-time, temporary, part-time; exempt or non-exempt. We also recognize that job abandonment situations, uncomfortable as they may be, occur across all industries and sectors of the U.S. workplace.


Job Abandonment Investigation Must be Acted Upon Immediately
—it’s tricky and could be a very time consuming process if extensive investigation is required to include filing of police “wellness or missing person” report.  Investigating and documenting suspected “job abandonment” may also be uncomfortable and may even affect employee morale. 

Has Employee Job Abandonment Ever Happened on Your Watch?
If so, did you handle it the right way, or could you have done a better job? it is important to ask yourself, what are the employer’s responsibilities to include: training of staff, HR policies, implementation of best practices, adherence to state and federal laws, unemployment, health insurance and the like.

Job Abandonment, No Legal Definition—Must be Defined in Your Company Policy
First and foremost, however, you need to have an HR policy and termination process in place that provides clear direction to your staff in situations where job abandonment is suspected.  There is not a legal definition for job abandonment, so the definition of what constitutes abandonment must be defined in your company’s policy. 

The Most Frequently Used Rule of Thumb
There are no federal or state laws that specify the number of days. However, in some states, case law establishes three days as reasonable. Three days is the most common measure and will provide employers with enough time to investigate the absence (but not long enough to put the company in a position of holding a job for someone who will never return).

Thus, the number of days missed before considered voluntary termination by job abandonment vary by organization but is most frequently three days.  If your policy clearly states the number of days missed, then the absence is considered “voluntary termination by abandonment”.  So, what is job abandonment?

Job Abandonment is a Situation Where...
An employee fails to show up as scheduled or expected at work on consecutive days without:

  • notifying their supervisor (no call, no show) communicating with his or her supervisor, or
  • manager about the reason for missing work, or
  • requesting time off, or using his or her paid or unpaid leave.

Therefore, when an employee has no intention of returning to the job and hasn't notified the employer of his or her intention to quit, the employee has abandoned the job and the act is considered a voluntary termination. Be aware, however, as the employer you must comply with your state's unemployment division's definition of voluntary termination. 

Investigative Procedures
As an employer, it's usually a good practice, although not legally required, to reach out to contact the employee who fails to show up for work.  However, before issuing the termination for “job abandonment”, you must complete basic investigative steps, and then follow termination procedures:

  1. Employee Notification
    Send a job-abandonment letter that explains the employer's position and requires the employee to contact the employer if there are any circumstances of which the employer is not aware, such as a medical issue that could potentially change the employer's action.
    The abandonment letter clearly should state that the employee’s employment will be terminated within “x” days (as per your policy) following receipt of the letter, if you do not hear from him or her with a reasonable and acceptable explanation for the absence.
  2. Proof of Notification
    It is strongly advised to send “Job Abandonment” notification by registered mail requiring a return receipt as proof of the notification. Voice mails left on employee’s primary number, if they could not speak with them directly, should be made and direct phone conversation should be documented as to date, day and time the connection was made. Email and text proof of notification may also be used.
  3. Documentation
    It is imperative to document termination procedures, such as:
    - updating the employee's file with documentation and termination dates,
    - sending COBRA and insurance forms, if applicable, and
    - cutting the final paycheck according to your state’s requirements.
  4. Employee Termination
    If the employee doesn’t contact the company within a certain number of days as outlined in your company’s policy, without a reasonable explanation, the employer can then terminate the employee for job abandonment.

Employers Care About Our Most Valuable Assets--Our Employees
If you have been involved with a “job abandonment” investigation, you understand the challenge of the task at hand.  If not, know that employees who fail to report for work without prior approval, and or may abandon their job without notice, will impact employee morale, even to the point of an inability to do their jobs effectively.  In turn, productive company operations are also affected...so let's write the policy, work the investigative procedure and do it right.
 

The Information Provided Does Not Constitute Legal Advice

J. Kent Staffing has a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary

from state to state and country to country.  

Employers and staffing agencies should consult their own labor or employment attorneys with additional questions or for guidance and more information specific to their country, state and workplace.

 

Source:  Article by By Vicki Neal, PHR-CA, is an HR Knowledge Advisor in SHRM's HR Knowledge Center from http://www.shrm.org/kc/solutions/articles/archives/CMS_025358.asp#P-8_0, http://www.hrknowledge.com/what-is-job-abandonment-and-why-is-hr-policy-important/

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