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June 13, 2011
Voluntary and Involuntary Absences

In a BLR webinar entitled "Paid Time Off: Best Practices for Compensating Employees When They Dip Into Their PTO Banks," John P. Hagan, Esq., a partner in the Dallas office of Sarles & Ouimet, LLP described the unique types of absences that companies and employees face.

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Different companies use different terms for different kinds absences and the cause of the absence is only an issue when there's a federal law related to that cause.

The difference between voluntary and involuntary absences is not determined by who initiates the absence. It can be confusing and counterintuitive. An involuntary absence is one that is governed by federal or state law. Voluntary absences are governed by company policy.

Examples of involuntary absences include:

  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave
  • Workers compensation leave
  • Military leave

Examples of voluntary absences include:

  • Vacation
  • Non-FMLA medical leave
  • Funeral leave
  • Holidays
  • Temporary layoffs
  • Weather closures
  • Disability leave
  • All formalized paid time off programs

There are really only two major camps in terms of company policy for paid time off: Traditional Leave and Personal Time Off/Paid Time Off (PTO) Banks.

Under traditional programs, there are different kinds of absences, e.g., vacation, sick time, holidays and other. One of the problems this can create is, for example, an employee who runs out of vacation time calling in sick when not actually ill. These kinds of issues are usually resolved under the PTO bank system because it has only a single bank.

PTO banks simplify the process for employees and administrators and help eliminate the potential problem of a supervisor questioning a medical condition, which is forbidden by some laws. Problems arise when considering whether unused PTO time must be paid upon termination. This is something that should be addressed by a Human Resources attorney on a state-by-state basis.

While PTO programs may increase the cost of termination, some studies have shown that it results in a lower absentee rate.

John P. Hagan, Esq., a partner in the Dallas office of Sarles & Ouimet, LLP (www. sarleslaw.com), is a trial lawyer Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Focusing primarily on employment law, Hagan advises and defends corporate employers, both large and small, on employment disputes. He helps employers avoid and, if possible, resolve employment disputes before they ever reach litigation on a wide variety of employment issues.

Need help staying on top of critical HR and Compensation issues? See all the webinars BLR has to offer.


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