Ask HR Series – Documenting an Employee’s Late Arrival Patterns

Ask HR Series – Documenting an Employee’s Late Arrival Patterns

Xenium’s Senior HR Business Partners know a lot about human resources, and we want to share their knowledge and insight with you! Each week, we publish a question from you, our readers, and our experienced HR leaders provide thoughtful, helpful advice addressing your HR dilemmas. Submit questions by emailing them to or by clicking on the chat icon at the bottom of this page. We are excited to partner with you…one HR question at a time!

This week’s featured HR expert is Rich LeBlanc.


I have an employee who regularly arrives late to work. I’ve warned him several times, and I’ve documented that I’ve given him these warnings. What do I need to do to ensure I am legally protected before terminating him?

First, make sure you’ve covered all your bases in terms of your risk. Determine if the individual is in a protected class, or if they’ve filed any complaints against a supervisor recently. If either of these situations apply, your documentation needs to be thorough and airtight so the termination isn’t perceived as discrimination or retaliation.

Before beginning the termination process, you may want to consider a last-chance agreement or some other formal write-up. It may be that this person is a great employee but he just can’t show up to work on time. In that case, you could give him a final opportunity to correct this behavior.

You should also think about outside factors that may be contributing to his lateness. Is it something family-related? Is it his schedule? Maybe daycare doesn’t open until 9:00 a.m. If you haven’t done so yet, it may be best to talk with him and hear his explanation for why he’s late so often. If he’s a good employee otherwise, consider whether you can accommodate the reasons for his tardiness.

But that doesn’t mean you should just listen to his reasoning and give him a pass. Examine the reasons he gives you. If they’re always different, they might just be excuses. Staying aware of trends can help you figure that out. For example, if he’s always late on Fridays, Mondays, or after holidays, keep record of that pattern. And go into the conversation prepared. Do your research and refer to your documentation before you talk with him.

Whether you’re dealing with an employee who consistently shows up late or doesn’t show up at all, to ensure that you’re covered, do your research. Document every instance of lateness, look for trends, have the conversation, and then document the conversation. If the employee’s behavior doesn’t improve after you’ve taken these measures, then you have enough reason—and proof—to terminate.

Julie Matthiessen

As Sales & Marketing Coordinator, Julie supports and collaborates with the Marketing Director and VP of Sales & Marketing to develop content and execute marketing strategies, as well as provide customer service and support to potential clients. She also contributes internally at Xenium as a member of the innovative culture development group XCITE.