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How’s this for news? A.K. Verma, an engineer for the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) in India, was recently fired after last showing up for work in December 1990.
Verma left work sick one morning in 1990. He requested leave and then sought an extension of his initial leave. Though the request for an extension was denied, Verma refused to return. In 1992, an inquiry was launched finding Verma guilty of “willful absence from duty,” but not much else happened. Verma was considered to be “on furlough.” In 2007, charges were brought against Verma by the then-Minister of Urban Development. Still, not much else happened.
It was only after the new Minister of Urban Development took office in March 2014 that Verma’s file — which had been sitting idle since 2007 — was reviewed. Though government jobs in India are considered by some to be “for life,” Verma finally pushed his luck a little too far. He was terminated this month, more than 24 years after he left work that morning. The CPWD’s reasoning – the termination was required to “streamline the functioning of the CPWD and to ensure accountability.” Especially since Verma was getting paid, it is difficult to argue with that logic.
Interestingly, according to the World Bank, India’s labor laws are the most restrictive anywhere and make it hard to terminate staff (particularly government workers) for any reason other than criminal misconduct. So much so that, last year, India started cracking down on “rampant absenteeism” by having its bureaucrats sign in at work using a fingerprint scanner (believe it or not, real time results can be viewed online).
The take-away here is just a reminder of HR’s important role in navigating through somewhat nuanced leave issues, including, among other things:
- sending out the FMLA Notice of Eligibility and Request for Medical Certificate within 5 business days of receiving an employee request for leave or notice that an employee is or will be absent due to a potentially FMLA qualifying condition;
- requiring employees to use accrued paid leave concurrently with FMLA leave (otherwise, employees can use all their paid leave and then take FMLA leave, potentially resulting in more time away from work); and
- evaluating whether additional leave would be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.
As to No. 3, there is no bright-line, hard and fast rule as to how much additional leave would be deemed reasonable. That must be determined on a case-by-case basis. But it’s very safe to say that 24 years is unreasonable.
In unrelated (or perhaps related news), attendance among civil servants in India is on the rise.