If you suspect an employee is abusing your generous sick and disability leave benefits, consider cracking down on fraud. As long as you can document that you made a good-faith decision to punish leave abuse, a court won’t second-guess your actions.
Recent case: Tom worked for Cincinnati Bell Telephone (CBT), which has a generousand disability . Employees can take paid leave concurrently with . The company does, however, make light-duty jobs available to employees whose medical restrictions allow such work.
Tom took both FMLA and disability leave for back problems. He underwent regular physical therapy and received injections to help with the pain. CBT informed Tom that it had a few hours per day of light-duty work available. He went back to his doctor, described intense pain and got a “no work” order.
A few days later, Tom attended the downtown Cincinnati Oktoberfest, where co-workers observed him drinking beer and walking several blocks. One reported the encounter to CBT’s HR office, which launched an investigation into how Tom could apparently walk through a crowded street festival but not perform light-duty work. HR concluded that Tom was abusing his disability leave. He was terminated when he returned to work.
Tom sued, alleging retaliation for taking FMLA leave.
The court dismissed the case. It reasoned that employers are free to punish what they honestly believe is leave fraud. (Seeger v. Cincinnati Bell Telephone, No. 10-6148, 6th Cir., 2012)