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NEW REPORT: Abusive Attendance Policies Put Workers At Substantial Health Risk

NEW REPORT: Abusive Attendance Policies Put Workers at Substantial Health Risk

New A Better Balance Report Shows How Some of U.S.’s Largest Employers Use “No Fault” Attendance Policies to Violate Workers’ Rights

Today, A Better Balance released a new report, “Misled & Misinformed,” detailing how the strict, “points-based” or “no fault” attendance policies favored by some of the country’s biggest employers—including Walmart and Tyson Foods—routinely violate workers’ rights. As businesses reopen and the public health threat posed by COVID-19 remains, these abusive attendance policies mean that despite important workplace civil rights laws, workers on the frontlines are forced to choose between their health and safety, and their job.

“It’s unacceptable that some of the biggest companies in meatpacking and food processing, retail, and manufacturing use points-based attendance policies that routinely mislead and misinform low-wage workers about their legal rights, particularly workers who are ill, pregnant, or have chronic medical conditions,” says A Better Balance Co-Founder and Co-President Dina Bakst. “As our nation reopens and millions of workers, disproportionately Black and Latino, are required to show up for work or risk losing their job, lawmakers should ensure companies are fully transparent about their no-fault attendance policies and should explore legislation to ensure full compliance with our nation’s civil rights laws.”

Over the last year, A Better Balance’s team of legal experts analyzed the “no fault” attendance policies of 66 employers—who collectively employ approximately 18 million workers. We found that “no fault” attendance policies consistently share a common set of faults: they fail to inform workers about their rights to time off without punishment for certain medical, pregnancy-related, and caregiving needs, and they are designed to operate in ways that make it nearly impossible for workers to exercise those rights.

Some of our key findings include:

  • Employers’ “no fault” attendance policies regularly provide incomplete or misleading information to workers regarding their right to time off under the federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • The vast majority of the policies that we reviewed indicate that workers will incur points when they miss work because they are sick
  • Over 80% of the policies surveyed failed to make clear that employees will not receive points for qualifying disability-related absences protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Only 12% of the policies that we reviewed acknowledged that emergencies might prevent a worker from complying with an employer’s call-out requirements, and fewer than 10% outlined a process for employees to seek removal of points that have been assessed.

As a result, the use of these policies prevents or discourages workers from taking job-protected leave or time off to which they are legally entitled, leading far too many workers to delay providing necessary medical care for a loved one or come into work sick to avoid punishment and job loss. Moreover, the policies themselves are often extremely difficult to find, making it impossible for workers to understand their obligations and for members of the public to monitor compliance with workplace laws. In the report, we share stories from workers who have had their health and livelihood harshly impacted by these practices.

In the report, we also propose a set of recommendations, including state and federal legislation that will ensure that employers cannot use attendance policies to interfere with workers’ rights—or face increased penalties for doing so. Legislation has already been introduced in New York state, and we encourage other states, and Congress, to follow suit.

Today, A Better Balance, which has been sounding the alarm about punitive attendance policies for years, sent letters to key companies mentioned in the report asking them to make their policies available publicly in order to ensure that the policies are compliant with the law.

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