Late for Work 111 Times Because of Breakfast, He Got to Keep His $90,000 Job

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Sep 3, 2015

By Eric B. Meyer

Earlier this year, I shared the most unique late-to-work excuses.

“I have a bad habit of eating breakfast in the morning, and I lost track of time” did not make the list. However, according to the Associated Press, a New Jersey teacher used that excuse to explain away the 111 times he was late to work.

But the teacher kept his job.

It’s a due process problem

Although his employer, City of New Brunswick School District, would probably agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the school still brought tenure charges against the teacher. And wouldn’t you know it, the employee prevailed.

Now, that’s not to say that the arbitrator was impressed with the teacher’s list of priorities (i.e., breakfast before school). Indeed, the arbitrator had “no doubt that the District has proven conduct unbecoming chronic tardiness.”

However, the arbitrator concluded that the teacher was “entitled to due process and fundamental fairness,” which in the case of a tenured teacher, means progressive discipline instead of getting fired. (The school never provided him with “a formal notice of inefficiency, and he did not have the mandatory 90 day period to endeavor to correct those inefficiencies.”

According to this article on Marketwatch, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie expressed his displeasure with the outcome on Twitter. That tweet elicited a number of trolling responses, many of which I can’t publish here. But feel free to scroll through them on your own time.

For now, the teacher is suspended until Jan. 1, 2016. Then, he’ll return to class and to his $90,000 per year job.

My 2 cents on progressive discipline policies

If you are a non-union employer, consider removing that policy on progressive discipline from your handbook; it’s a holdover from days when unions were more powerful.

While a progressive discipline policy may help to ensure consistency, many times they aren’t followed to the letter. Plus, most of them have language that gives the employer leeway to deviate from the policy. And when you create exceptions, you create disparate treatment claims.

Instead, think about scrapping the policy and just treat your employees fairly.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.