Suspect medical excuse is bogus? Ask employee for a (real) doctor’s note

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in Compensation and Benefits,Employment Law,Human Resources

Some people will do anything to get out of work early, including lying about their child’s health. One employer did the smart thing and demanded proof when it became suspicious.

Recent case: Bernard Jones, who had a bad back caused by a job injury, received a phone call at work and immediately told his supervisor he needed to get to the hospital—his son had been taken to the ER. Because Jones didn’t have transportation, his boss offered to drive him there. But he also told Jones he had to get a medical excuse.

The following day, Jones showed up with a handwritten note that said he had been at the hospital the day before, signed by a Dr. Palowski. The supervisor requested a more specific note, preferably on letterhead.

When none was forthcoming, the company fired Jones, who promptly sued.

He ended up explaining to the court that he had lied about his son because his back hurt—which he said justified a disability discrimination lawsuit.

The judge didn’t buy it. (Jones v. APV Engineered Coatings, No. 5:10-CV-2349, ND OH, 2011)

Final note: Be sure to follow up when an excuse seems bogus. The supervisor in this case checked with the hospital to see if there was a Dr. Palowski on staff. There was not.

Make it routine to get an official medical certification for FMLA leave. If employees know they have to prove they had a legitimate absence excuse, chances are they’ll try fewer stunts like this one.

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