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Are you really sick today?

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Question: I have an employee who called in and indicated she wasn't going to be able to come to work today because her daughter is sick.

Other employees in our department have let me know that she'd been telling them that she was going to ask if she could book the day off, as she was moving this weekend.

This is our busiest time of year and everyone is working extra hours to keep on top of the workload. If she had asked for the time off, it would have been granted, providing she was willing to make up the required hours.

This is very frustrating to the other employees and to me. Any ideas on how to handle this? Should it be addressed with the employee?  -- Frustrated in Windsor, Ont.


My suggestion, leave it alone. If she gets paid sick time anyhow, there is no point to bringing it up and risk upsetting the employee. And with a daughter and being a working mom, she may not have the ability to make up the time later so she figured this was her best option. If it's abused, then yes, she needs to have a conversation, but if it's a one time, moving example weekend, no point in the discussion. Obvsiously, the other staff members may make comments to her, but as an HR person, if she followed policy, I would leave it be. That's why policies are written.

I would approach this employee and tell her that you have heard from multiple people (she doesn't need to know who) that she was moving and her child was not ill. Explain to her that you have no problem with her wanting to care for her child but that she can never again use an excuse that her or her child are sick to "get out" of working. Then tell her that when this happens in the future you will require a note from the doctor prior to her returning to work and prior to her being paid her sick leave hours. This should stop her, because she knows what she did was wrong and she needs to be called on for it.

I would also to say to leave it alone. If she were to do this a lot then I would call her on it and let her know that it is unacceptable and in the future it will be documented and she will be reprimanded. Being a mother of 2, you can't always get a doctor's note to turn in. Sometimes, the child will be not feeling well, but doesn't need to go to the doctor. If it isn't a habit, then I would just forget about it. It seems like you are taking what everyone else is saying as true, when you should trust your employee until she can not be trusted by you. Almost sounds like everyone else is a little jealous because they had to work when it was busy and she didn't. It could also be that she feels that her personal time might not be considered important to the company she works for and thought she had to lie to get a day off. Just trust her until she abuses the policy.

If the employee follows the protocol for requesting a day off and the manager grants the request, then don't take your frustrations out on the employee. Yes, I agree, the employee should be concerned about the workload and the strain it puts on the other employees, but as you can already see, some people just don't look outside their own little world.
So, either the manager doesn't realize the stress that this puts on the other employees, or isn't concerned about the stress, or simply isn't skilled at labor management and telling people "no".
Perhaps it would be best if you diplomatically express your concerns to the manager, and based on his/her reaction you may get an idea of where your manager stands, and whether you're fighting a losing battle. If your manager doesn't show any concern over your predicament, then that will tell you that as long as you keep absorbing other people's workload, then management is going to keep expecting it. If that's the case, you're beating a dead horse and you'll have to decide whether or not you want to continue to work in that environment. Good luck to you, I've been there too.

Sounds like the woman's co-workers are adding 2 and 2 and getting 5. Yes, the woman may have mentioned that she would like the day off because she was moving. Did it occur to any of them that perhaps she didn't carry through with that because she realized that it was a busy time? And then in the midst of the move, her daughter may very well have become ill. I would not say anything at all to her, unless as others have suggested, she does this repeatedly.

I agree with Tracy and Anonymous, as long as it is not a habit, where you would have grounds for reprimanding her. It seems to be a common issue with a lot of companies. However, if you choose to "come after" her because of what you heard, I feel you should be responsible to go after everyone that calls in sick; legally she shouldn't be singled-out. Beyond that, it is between her and her conscience.

I agree with the other posts which advised overlooking this if it appears to be a one time situation. A single mom planning a move might have had good intentions to request time off and then either felt it would not be granted because of the workload, or put off asking too long and then took the easy way out by calling in a sick day for her daughter. If she is otherwise a good employee, maybe offer a little grace this time. We all need it once in a while!

It never ceases to amaze me how friends in the office so love to tattle on one another. It's people like this that motivate me to take a walk on my lunch hour and breaks instead of sitting with "friends" and chatting. It's a rare thing to find a co-worker you can safely confide in...

The employee apparently feels (whether viable or not) that she would be unable to take time off in any other manner. I would look not just at the employee for fudging on why her day off was taken, and instead ask WHY did she feel the necessity to pretend sickness? Have other employees needed off for specific reasons and not been granted that time off? Something that many HR professionals tend to forget is that life often brings things to a person that must be done and must be done during business hours. It is unfortunate she felt it necessary to get off as sick, however, I would guess she believed it was the only way she would be able to complete the necessary chore of moving. Perhaps speaking with her and letting her know that in the future, asking off for a particular reason would be the more appropriate manner in which to get time off.

I particularly appreciated the comments by CJ and Karen. Be very careful taking Liz' advice: She makes a valid point, but you may find yourself falsely accusing a person who really did have a sick daughter on top of everything else that's going on for her.

As others mentioned you must follow company policy at all times. No one should be singled out for any reason. If the employee followed procedures then you should just let it go. I'm sure your company has a written policy regarding absenteeism, so make sure you follow it for everyone.

it is unfortunate that sometimes employees aren't comfortable being honest, which may be due to employer's criticism.

Not to give her an excuse, but once I had to move and I had very little assistance - which put a strain on my body. Long story short, I had to ask my boss for that Monday off and it was due to my overworked body - I was so sore, I dreaded moving any muscle in my body. Yes, I was honest with my boss, she was aware I was moving over the weekend. This may have been the case for her (??).

Please ignore the gossip, it will only upset you even more. If you want, politely tell her how much she was missed; maybe she'll open up to you. Other than that, do not approach her as to her excuse, it may backfire on you.

I didn't make it clear apparently - I didn't mean to accuse her and say WHY DID YOU LIE! I meant only to indicate that possibly if she did get off to move instead of being sick, it's possible the company behavior towards getting off even when you MUST is not indusive to being honest as to why and when you need off. I guess I'm trying to say, instead of looking at the employee as "you liar!" you might look at the company culture and you may realize that no one feels like they can get off even when they need to, which causes employee dissatisfaction and does not encourage loyalty or honesty. She may have had a sick daughter and she may have been sick herself or she may have simply needed a day off to complete the chore of moving - for some reason, she needed a day off. Rather than being upset, understanding might be the course of action best advised no matter what the situation may be.

It would be nice if the boss would look at it from Liz's persective. It sounds like that the only way someone could have taken off was due to an illness, so no matter what may be going on in a person life that would have been the only excuse the company would accept. I've worked places like this and you just knew that if something came up during the peak time you were out of luck on time off. This leaves employees with no alternative if they need time off. There have been a few days that I called in with a sick child because I new that there was no other way to get a day off that I needed. I would think that as long as this is not a habit for the one employee, just let the gossip run it's course.

If she followed the appropriate protocol for taking sick time, you should not discuss it with the employee because she's fulfilled her obligation.

However, that doesn't mean you have to let it go without notice. Send out a department-wide email that documents the sick time policy guidelines. Use a generic intro, such as "Please review the sick time policy guidelines. If you have any questions, see your Manager. Thank you."

Doing this doesn't single anyone out and will alert the employee that her actions, while unpunishable, didn't go unnoticed.

If she didn't follow protocol, you have a duty to discuss the issue with her as you normally would, regardless of what you heard from her coworkers. This is especially true if other people had to shoulder her workload while she was out.

Hope this helps!

I say there's always 3 sides to every story... yours, his and the truth. Mind your own business.

I was in the same situation just a few weeks ago. I was moving and my grown daughter was having problems with chest pains. She had to go in for many tests and having very tiny veins some tests were repeated a second time because the veins kept blowing. My daughter works at home and has 6 children, 2 are only in school a few hours each morning. Her husband also just went through some medical issues so he is out of all his sick and vacation time. In the mist of having to move and would love to take time off to complete this very huge task, my daughter needed help on and off. My time off ended up being sick time to be with her or watching her children so she could get the needed tests.

I am sure some people do take advantage of their co-workers and employers! Although just maybe there was nothing she could do to help her situation. Having to move is so stressfull and exhausting let alone having a sick daughter to care for not to mention the worry of it. Do not assume that the rumors were correct. Some people can be very critical on others until it happens to themselves. If she is not an employee that has a history of chronic absence then I would say to trust her and give her your support as long as it is not obssesive. You will have a much more dedicated employee.

I agree with Brenda and many other comments! Leave it alone! She needed the time to move and/or care for a sick child. She had "sick" time coming and it was probably the only way she was going to get the time off due to the busy season, but she shouldn't have mentioned to others she was going to need the day off. Sometimes, we have to do what we have to do. This is one of the reasons I left the Corporate world and support others who wish to work from home to avoid these pitfalls. My company provides administrative work from home positions and the pay is great!

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