Employee No-Shows and Walkouts: What if an Employee Quits with No Notice?

Even when everything goes smoothly, employee terminations can be stressful. But what about those more mysterious situations, when an employee just stops coming in to work, and no-shows for two or three days without calling? Even worse, what if an employee suddenly walks out and leaves you, the patients, and maybe even the front desk phones hanging?

When an employee pulls a vanishing act or leaves your practice in the dust, you’re left needing closure – and it’s your job as an employer to achieve it. But you don’t want to interact with this (now unpredictable) employee any more than you have to. Your best bet is to consolidate the information you have in a letter, making it clear that their job abandonment now constitutes voluntary resignation.

There are several topics you’ll want to include in this communication. First, confirm the employee’s resignation, in detail. If you have a policy that three no-shows constitute resignation, write out the relevant details, including the dates and the worker’s failure to communicate. (Note that your employees should already be aware of, and have acknowledged, your practice’s attendance and no-show policies in your employee handbook!)

As you compose the rest of your letter, consider including or addressing the following:

  • The employee’s final paycheck, with their pay stub. Include all amounts owed – for example, payouts for any vacation that was earned/accrued but unused. Each state has different rules on final paychecks, but you do not want to withhold them, even for return of property.
  • Was the employee part of a company-sponsored health plan? Address your COBRA extension or any other responsibilities.
  • Was the departing employee also a patient? If so, will your practice be ceasing to provide care? If you no longer wish to treat the departing employee, you may need to discuss this subject.
    • One common way to do this is by providing a notice stating that for the next 30 days, emergencies may be treated at your regular fees. Otherwise, you will no longer consider the ex-employee a patient.
    • Be aware that, as the doctor, it’s your responsibility to know your state’s rules on this medical topic, so you don’t inadvertently create a patient abandonment issue. It’s one of those “dot-the-i” issues for medical providers.
  • Confidentiality. Remind the departing employee of their ongoing responsibility to maintain confidentiality of patient/employee Protected Health Information and any other secure information (not involving working conditions).
  • Your exit interview form (get it with the Separation Guide, HERE.) Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope and request that the employee fill out the form and drop it in the mail at their convenience. This is an important inclusion, as it can help you understand why the employee quit so suddenly.
    • As we discussed in our recent blog post on exit interviews, whether or not the ex-employee’s interview is returned, your attempt to send it is crucial, especially in the event of a sudden walk-out or no-show. Sometimes you’re even able to uncover an underlying misunderstanding (a perception of unfair treatment, for instance) and resolve it before it festers into a discrimination lawsuit.
    • Even if the employee fails to respond, or sends back a rant, you are establishing evidence of your own diligence and a snapshot of their state of mind at termination.

Remember, although we’ve covered some basics, each situation is different. You may find you have questions about when you can safely fire for employee no-shows, what generally constitutes job abandonment, or what you should do if there are protected-class factors, volatile personalities, or unique situations involved. Plus, you’ll want to make sure all policies your practice has in place, and all end-of-employment policies you enforce, are 100% legally compliant.

Successful employee termination is all about predicting and managing risks, and doctors or their managers are invited to contact one of our CEDR Solution Center advisors, all of whom are HR and employment law attorneys and/or experts, before taking action. We’ll help you resolve one issue for free! Just call 866-414-6056 or email info@cedrsolutions.com

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature, and is not intended to replace good counsel about a specific issue with either your attorney or your favorite HR expert.

May 20, 2014

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance based on applicable local, state and/or federal U.S. employment law that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

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