The holidays are a wonderful time to gather with friends and family, give thanks, and of course, feast on turkey. But these joyous festivities occasionally result in attendance and performance issues in even the most exemplary employees. The following blog will address common employment concerns that arise during the holiday season and tips for addressing them.

Sick Leave Abuse

After a holiday, and especially the Friday after Thanksgiving, it is not uncommon for employees to call in sick. Calling in sick may have been the employee’s plan all along or occur to them Friday morning as the gravy grumbles set in. Regardless of the motivation, sick leave abuse is a serious policy violation and warrants a response from management. However, simply calling off sick after a holiday does not necessarily constitute sick leave abuse. Sick leave abuse occurs when an employee demonstrates a pattern of sick leave use around weekends, holidays, or in response to hard assignments or if the employee is fraudulently using sick leave. If an employee is suspected of fraudulently using their sick leave, the behavior should be discussed with the employee and management may request additional information to support the employee’s leave of absence. Management may also review an employee’s social media for additional information as part of the investigation concerning sick leave abuse.

Managing sick leave abuse comes down to having a strong, clear, and well-enforced sick leave policy. Sick leave policies should lay out the circumstances where sick leave use is appropriate, the guidelines for requesting off sick leave, and the consequences for sick leave misuse. In addition to discipline for sick leave misuse, some employers utilize incentives for employees who have perfect attendance during a set period, such as cash payouts, rolling sick leave accumulation, bonus time off, or recognitions and awards. Importantly, sick leave abuse should be investigated and managed in a nondiscriminatory manner.


In addition to increased absences, employees are also more likely to be tardy following a holiday or celebration. An employee’s failure to carve out enough time could be due to a variety of factors, from poor time management by the employee to increased traffic from the holidays. Regardless of the source, employee tardiness can result in shift change complications and lapses in the delivery of services. Like sick leave abuse, managing tardiness falls on having a well-written policy which is consistently enforced. Tardy policies should detail the expectations for when employees are expected to arrive, where they should be at the start of their shift, what, if anything, must occur before their shift, and the procedures for informing management of expected delays. Ensuring clear and open communication between employees and supervisors will help alleviate the issues of tardiness.

Alcohol Abuse & Misuse

During the holidays it is common for employees to celebrate with a glass of wine or a couple of beers. However, the holidays are also a time for increased alcoholism and alcohol-related issues in the workplace. Alcohol is the most used and abused drug in America; 1 in every 13 adults is said to abuse alcohol or identify as an alcoholic. Under certain circumstances alcohol abuse can constitute a disability, so managers must tread carefully when managing an employee’s alcohol misuse both on and off duty.

An employee’s off-duty alcohol use is generally their own personal decision. However, employers are permitted to institute alcohol use policies to ensure an employee’s alcohol use does not spill into the workplace. Common policies include prohibiting alcohol use 8 hours before an employee’s shift and required reporting of alcohol-related concerns. Employers can and should take a zero-tolerance approach to alcohol abuse in the workplace. Employer policies should also prohibit alcohol-related arrests and convictions. Employees should be encouraged to report observations or other information of improper alcohol use. Finally, all alcohol use policies should acknowledge alcoholism as a disability and provide guidance for addressing alcohol use concerns.

Distracted Employees

Even before the wishbone is split, or the pumpkin pie has been served, employees are bombarded with ads and deals for the spending holidays immediately following Thanksgiving. From Black Friday to Small Business Saturday, to Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday, employees can’t help but get distracted over the latest deals and discounts. This holiday season is no exception. But even with the elusive once-in-a-holiday deals, employees are still expected to remain on task during the workday and avoid surfing the web for discounts while on the clock. Employers should ensure they have policies limiting the use of personal and employer devices for private uses. Employers are also permitted to restrict employee access to shopping sites on employer-owned devices, as well as utilize performance tracking softwares. Overall, managing proper employee use of personal and employer devices comes down to creating a culture of consistent enforcement. Employers should utilize progressive discipline to correct improper use of technological devices.

Fishel Downey regularly provides training and policy review for employers on employee performance and attendance issues. If you have a specific question or scenario, and would like assistance, contact one of the attorneys at Fishel Downey Albrecht & Riepenhoff LLP at 614-221-1216.