Fired for attendance, when attendance policy unclear?
Hi, thanks for your help.
I'm preparing for an appeal in North Carolina.
I was told I was fired for tardiness/absences.
I worked at my job for 4 years and I was a salary employee, not hourly.
Our attendance policy(which was changed a couple years ago and no new company hand-books were made available with the new policy)now allows us 20 hours of "unexcused" personal time to go along with our 60 hours "excused" hours for sick time(with a Dr's note).
These hours, along with our vacation time, reset at the beginning of the year. I had a couple of tardy's early in the year. My supervisor met with me, and told me I needed to pay attention to my attendance, but also added that I was doing a phenomenal job with my work. I was asked by HR if I wanted to use my vacation time to make up for the hours I was out. I said yes, because(I thought) this would be recorded as vacation time used, not as an "unexcused" absence. I had emails from HR asking me if this is what I wanted to do.
A few more months went by and I was late one morning, I went to my supervisor's office and told him why I was late. He told me he recognized that I was had been doing better with my attendance and everyone is late every now and then. I thought this would go towards my 20 "unexcused" personal hours. Keep in mind, the only communication I've received from HR any tardy's is to ask me if I wanted to use my vacation time to make up for the hours. I always said "yes" in those situations.
A month or two later, I was late one morning. We had severe thunderstorms the night before and I lost power in my home. None of my alarm clocks went off, causing me to be late. When I got to work, I was called into a meeting with my supervisor and his boss. They told me that I was being given a warning, that if I was late or absent again, I would
be fired. This was a shock to me because I thought I was using vacation time and my personal time properly and in good shape as far as my attendance. I felt very embarrassed and instead of disputing it, I just took it and said that I would do better. AGain, I was given re-enforcement that I was doing a phenomenal job at work.
I looked for our new company handbook because I wanted to research my rights, but the link on our company website to the company handbook never worked. As far as I know, it still doesn't work to this day.
That night, I was arrested for suspicion of DUI and taken to jail. It was the next morning before I was released, causing me to be late for work. I was fired that day. I have a lawyer and I'm fighting the charges.
I was dismissed from the property that morning so I wasn't able to get any of my emails, or copies of Dr's notes I sent to HR to have any absences "excused" or the emails of HR asking me if I wanted to use my vacation time for some of the tardy's.
My biggest questions are:
Can I be fired for violating an attendance policy that wasn't made clear until it was too late? Not only was it not made clear, they actually changed it, reducing the amount of personal hours we could have.
Can I be fired for tardy's and absences that I used vacation time for?
Can I be fired for being late when I was arrested and could not help being late? Especially for something that I will probably be found "not-guilty" of?
Thanks for your help and sorry for the long post.
My answer will be short and sweet.
Unless you have some kind of employment contract .. you are an at will employee and they can fire you for any reason they want to fire you .. even if it's in contradiction to their own damn rules because most employers now have a disclaimer in the employee handbook that say you are an at will employee.