July 28, 2009

Points System - Part One

One of the things few people know about the casino industry, unless they’ve worked in it, is the little game that management plays with your time off. Because there is a need to be open 24/7/365, and that means nearly every employee is asked to work at least one, if not both weekend days – which are always busier than the rest of the week – it is imperative that the casinos ensure that the call-outs they receive are at a minimum, lest they not be able to open as many tables as demand would dictate. But while I recognize this desire is not madness, but rather necessity, the method they have chosen to enforce attendance is simply insane.

Each dealer is given 12 “points” to use throughout the course of the year. If you call out sick, you are charged with a point. They will alert you to your point total as it creeps closer to double-digits, but once you have reached that magic dozen points, essentially, they assert that they have the right to fire you for cause. On the surface, I do agree with this policy. After all, if you can’t commit to show up to the job you’ve agreed to do, then naturally, the employer should be allowed to replace you. However, the “theory” of the points system runs nowhere near the train tracks of its actual practice.

You call out sick on Wednesday, and you get a point. Now, if you’re sick again on Thursday, it gets considered part of the same “incident” – no further point charged, and usually a legit doctor’s note is all that it takes for a multi-day illness to be counted as a single point. Again, no issues there… but there are penalty points built into the system: Friday nights and weekends, and any other day deemed to be “high volume” such as Christmas or New Year’s Eve, are worth “two points.”

In addition, calling in the day immediately before or after your scheduled off-days is also considered a double-demerit. So consider that you could be sick on Tuesday and call out, have Wednesday and Thursday off, and then still be sick on Friday, but since it’s no longer a “consecutive call-out” plus it falls on the day after an off-day AND on a high volume day, this whole single illness would cost you – not one, but as many as FIVE points.

Of course, you have every right to challenge the ruling, but if you’re on shaky ground with the powers-that-be to begin with, the chances of them being sympathetic are minimal. In addition, they have what is called “pattern call-out” – also worthy of double-demerits. If they see that over a three-month period you have called out three times on the same day of the week, then those absences are bumped up from three points to six points… and if that day in question happens to be a high-volume day, you’ve already hit your twelve points – in only three call-outs.

There’s the big issue… you are given 10 personal days to use however you like, and even though you may well have time available to you, and the company will happily pay you for the days you have missed, you still can be fired for truancy if they so choose. Unbelievable!

Now mind you, there are part-time dealers who are hired by the casino. These dealers are only scheduled for at most, three or four days per week. Now when I started working in the casino, what happened was, if you knew in advance that you needed to miss a day of work, you would find a willing part-time dealer to take your shift, and you’d both sign a form indicating the swap. Now, even if you didn’t come into work, no points would be charged to you.

But what happened as the economy started its downturn and casinos started pinching pennies is that they changed this policy. Now, part-time dealers were no longer allowed to pick up days. Why? Because under labor laws, any employee who averaged at least 32 hours a week over a calendar year was eligible to buy into the company’s health plan. By ensuring that part-timers could never reach that per week average, they were saving lots of dough, but also in the process infuriating full-timers who now had no recourse but to call out and earn another point.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg… in Part 2, we’ll go deeper into the details of this amazingly flawed system.

Stay tuned…

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