Is excessive absence a valid basis for layoff?

The plant rated its employees A, B, or C depending on their "contribution to productivity and profits," as determined by periodic supervisory evaluations.
By Raymond Dreyfack February 1, 1999

The plant rated its employees A, B, or C depending on their “contribution to productivity and profits,” as determined by periodic supervisory evaluations. Class I Pipefitter Joel Crandell had been consistently rated C because of his poor attendance record.

One day, with sales and profits declining, management decided a 10% downsizing was called for. After reviewing the roster, a layoff list including Crandell’s name was posted. Minutes later, the angry pipefitter made a beeline for his boss’ desk.

“How come I’m on that list? Two guys with lower seniority than me are omitted.”

“Seniority isn’t the only factor involved,” Maintenance Foreman John Wilk replied. “The labor agreement gives management the right to consider other factors as well.”

“What factors?”

“Performance for one; attitude and behavior for another.”

“I’m a more experienced pipefitter than either of those two guys. I can handle any job they can and do it faster.”

“That may be so — when you’re here. But your attendance is worse than anyone else in the department. Check the record. Despite several suspensions and official warnings, your absenteeism has grown progressively worse.”

“What’s that got to do with my ability to function as a pipefitter?’”

“A great deal. Attendance is an important part of performance.”

Crandell didn’t see it that way and threatened to sue.

Question: Does management have a right to lay off Crendall?

Gorman’s decision: “Tell him his name stays on the layoff list,” Plant Engineer Ralph Gorman told Wilk. “An employee’s attendance is an integral part of his performance on the job and ability to conform to standards of efficiency and productivity.”