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bobostay  
#1 Posted : Friday, May 20, 2011 10:53:35 PM(UTC)
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Not sure if this is the right forum but here goes.....I supervise an employee who I suspect is abusing sick leave.  He has a doctor's note. 
 
My question is....Can I call him to work off of sick leave without repercusions?  I know that I can if he were taking annual leave but I can't find any guidance concerning calling someone back to work when on sick leave.
 
Any input greatly appreciated!
Rational Thought  
#2 Posted : Saturday, May 21, 2011 1:00:27 AM(UTC)
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bobostay wrote:


Not sure if this is the right forum but here goes.....I supervise an
employee who I suspect is abusing sick leave.  He has a doctor's note. 
 
My question is....Can I call him to work off of sick leave without
repercusions?  I know that I can if he were taking annual leave but I
can't find any guidance concerning calling someone back to work when on sick leave.
 
Any input greatly appreciated!


So, your report has a doctor's note, you suspect that he is abusing sick leave, and you want to ask him to work?

What evidence do you have that supports your suspicion?  If there is none, my input is that I sure hope you're never my supervisor.
the rock99  
#3 Posted : Saturday, May 21, 2011 2:41:26 AM(UTC)
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If you suspect that the person is using fake doctors notes then you need to report them to your agencies IG.
You can try ordering someone in off of sick leave,  but if they don't come there is really nothing you can do about it and you are leaving yourself wide open. Lets say that they are taking some type of medication that prevents them from driving, you order them in, they drive and kill somebody, guess what, you and your agency are now on the hook for a potential lawsuit. 
Knight  
#4 Posted : Saturday, May 21, 2011 8:18:16 AM(UTC)
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Let the leave stand for now. Audit his record, call the Doc's office to verify. And talk to general council. If you find fraud, hammer 'em. If you find a pattern of odd items, give them a letter of counseling and put them on notice. Hammer them next time.

Capt Bligh
StellaMaris  
#5 Posted : Saturday, May 21, 2011 9:24:49 AM(UTC)
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I would contact your labor relations and if the employee is covered by
the Bargaining Unit, I would also contact them before you do anything
and/or make any accusations.  


I think you are safe contacting the doctor's office to verify the authenticity of the note but I strongly suggest you check with those organizations first. 

Anything unwarranted and unsupported investigating is pretty dangerous territory.  I don't believe the IG would investigate just on your request alone.   If you find out the note is bogus, then you can take action.  Move carefully.  You can find yourself in an EEO complaint or union grievance.
Great Spirit, let me not judge another until I have walked in his moccasins a moon or two.
Knight  
#6 Posted : Saturday, May 21, 2011 10:15:52 AM(UTC)
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Stella is right to a point, but leave abuse is a supervisor's responsibility to stop. It hurts the unit when someone cheats the others and you.  Hence the chat with the lawyers. I have successfully put a couple of people on leave restriction. 1 was because he always took the Friday before a 3-day weekend off sick. (I mean 12 months x 3 years worth) 2 was for lying about being sick. He posted on face book that he lied to me about being sick to go to a concert. He forgot that some of his coworkers were on his friend's list and one of them had to cancel their leave to cover for him ... so they printed the page and gave it to me.
dhacker56  
#7 Posted : Saturday, May 21, 2011 10:19:25 AM(UTC)
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HIPAA  would prevent the Doctor's office from giving any medical info.  And the Supervisor sets himself up for a suit if it is proven he is trying to gain someone's private medical info.

martyb  
#8 Posted : Saturday, May 21, 2011 10:40:28 AM(UTC)
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Back in the "old" days when I was a WG employee, I would sometimes call in sick to go fishing.  Sometimes, when I called in, I'd be sitting in my boat, in the water, with the outboard running!  lol
Yeah..I really did.  Now I sure wish I had those SL hours back...

I rarely take any kind of leave for anything anymore.  Only my Use or Lose.  Still got over 4 weeks worth of that to use this year, and the year's almost 1/2 over!

martyb2011-05-21 18:48:11
Forum trolls to 0%
Ryos  
#9 Posted : Saturday, May 21, 2011 9:49:41 PM(UTC)
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dhacker56 wrote:
HIPAA  would prevent the Doctor's office from giving any medical info.  And the Supervisor sets himself up for a suit if it is proven he is trying to gain someone's private medical info.


They can't go into the particulars but they should at least verify whether they signed the form.  If they aren't willing to do that, they would have to provide limited information to law enforcement.  Sick leave provides plenty of potential abuse for people who would rather not use their annual or other types of leave and that constitutes fraud, waste, and abuse.
Copper  
#10 Posted : Sunday, May 22, 2011 1:51:13 AM(UTC)
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Leave abuse has got to be in the top five issues supervisors have to deal with on a fairly routine basis.  As for HIPAA, that is an interesting facet. I don't know, but suspect that most doctor's would be advised to neither confirm or deny anything simply because they would want to avoid any possible legal entanglement; meritless or otherwise.
An alternative approach may be to inform the employee that it will be assumed the document is truthful.  At some point remind them that lying to a supervisor can lead to dire consequences up to and including job loss.  If the abuse is flagrant enough maybe a fitness for duty examination is appropriate.  Usually, behavior changes once the employee knows their leave is being monitored because a pattern of abuse is suspected and they know continuing that behavior can lead to disciplinary action.
StellaMaris  
#11 Posted : Sunday, May 22, 2011 6:12:56 AM(UTC)
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My suggestion is simple and to the point - contact your Labor Relations office.  They will advise you according to the CFR:

5 U.S.C. chapter 63, subchapter I
5 U.S.C. 8415(l)(2)
5 U.S.C. 8339(m)
5 CFR, part 630, subparts B and D

Here is the OPM website for sick leave:  http://www.opm.gov/oca/leave/html/sicklv.asp

From the Health and Human Services NIH website:  http://hr.od.nih.gov/ben.../leave/leaveguide.htm#sl

Absences of More Than Three Days

  • Sick leave of more than three consecutive workdays (or shorter
    periods if instructed by the  Leave Approving Official - LAO) because of an employee's personal illness may require medical documentation.
  • Any medical documentation required must be signed by a health
    care provider, and must be sufficiently specific for the LAO to make a
    reasonable decision concerning whether or not the employee was
    incapacitated to perform the duties of his/her position and/or was
    receiving medical treatment. It must specifically identify the dates of
    the incapacitation and/or treatment and, if appropriate, provide an
    estimated date of full or partial recovery. More specific requirements for medical documentation may be imposed by the LAO, as appropriate.
  • Employees must submit required documentation within a
    reasonable amount of time after return to duty. Failure to submit
    required medical documentation may result in the employee's absence being charged to AWOL and may result in disciplinary action.
  • In cases of extended illness, medical documentation may be
    periodically required to establish the employee's continued incapacity and inability to return to duty.
  • If there is any doubt as to the validity or adequacy of the
    medical documentation presented to support a request for sick leave, an
    Occupational Medical Service (OMS) physician may be requested to review
    the documentation submitted, and more specific documentation may be requested.
  • Where evidence does not justify the approval of sick leave,
    the absence may be charged to annual leave or LWOP with the employee's consent, or AWOL if the absence is not approved.
Most agencies have the same requirements.

Stay safe and check with Labor Relations first.  Don't bank on everything you read here.






StellaMaris2011-05-22 14:29:08
Great Spirit, let me not judge another until I have walked in his moccasins a moon or two.
Knight  
#12 Posted : Sunday, May 22, 2011 11:18:06 AM(UTC)
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Stella, you and I are not at odds on this. I agree, a supervisor has to be very sure before doing something and they have to have all the knowledge and advice they can get. And then action is taken. One shop I was in used to audit all leave, of all employees, the last week of the leave year for oddities. They found many things to discuss with their troops. And never got a grievance out of it since they audited everyone, including the supervisors. ... It's a thought.  Talk to your JAG first though :)
cloudnine  
#13 Posted : Sunday, May 22, 2011 9:16:33 PM(UTC)
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Too bad the fed should do what my last job did...not sick pay unless you are off for three days or more..and you needed a doctors note. If you were off for one day, too bad, no pay that day...use annual leave to make up your pay for that day...guess what, hardly anyone called in sick.
Pick  
#14 Posted : Sunday, May 22, 2011 10:45:01 PM(UTC)
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cloudnine wrote:
Too bad the fed should do what my last job did...not sick pay unless you are off for three days or more..and you needed a doctors note. If you were off for one day, too bad, no pay that day...use annual leave to make up your pay for that day...guess what, hardly anyone called in sick.
 
I'd much rather someone call in sick rather than come in sick and pass it on to everyone else.  I can't count how many times that happened in the last place I worked.
Spanky  
#15 Posted : Sunday, May 22, 2011 10:45:16 PM(UTC)
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bobostay wrote:
Not sure if this is the right forum but here goes.....I supervise an employee who I suspect is abusing sick leave.  He has a doctor's note. 
 
My question is....Can I call him to work off of sick leave without repercusions?  I know that I can if he were taking annual leave but I can't find any guidance concerning calling someone back to work when on sick leave.
 
Any input greatly appreciated!
 
What are your suspicions?  You seen them shopping in Walmart when they called in sick?  Playing tennis?  Went fishing or hunting?  Are you their personal physician?  Have you receive information about an employee justifying they have no sickness?  When I call in sick...  that is all I say, I am sick or don't feel well.  No one at my employment needs to know anything more than that!  They have ZERO legal grounds to know anything more.
 
There was an article on Federal News Radio blog not too long ago and the subject was "sick leave" and when to deny it.  The reporter researched the federal laws and OPM regs and didn't find too much except if more than 3 consecutive days, must provide a doctor's note.  And as others have stated clearly, supervisors can not interpret a doctor and patient action.  It's against the federal law.  All it needs to say is... they are sick!  And I am not talking about forgery.  That would be a criminal action, not a sick leave denial.
 
I read some of the replies... like from Knight and cloudnine...  that 16th century medieval management thinking is wrong.  I suggest you go and find and read the article (especially if you are a military Captain and have civilian employees under you)...  Lastly, the only fool here would be the employee that allowed management to abuse them if they had SL on the books and it was less that 3 consecutive days!
 
Sick leave is "EARNED".  There is no abuse because YOU are not the employee's physician and don't know HOW the employee feels.  I am sure working for Knight or cloudnine would make me sick and I would take SL whenever I got sick.  Blue moon on monday or friday before every long weekend.  Deny it or change it and you better be sure you have JAG on your side.. because NO court will agree.  Go find and read the article!
 
Spanky2011-05-23 07:49:51
Spanky  
#16 Posted : Sunday, May 22, 2011 10:46:54 PM(UTC)
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cloudnine wrote:
Too bad the fed should do what my last job did...not sick pay unless you are off for three days or more..and you needed a doctors note. If you were off for one day, too bad, no pay that day...use annual leave to make up your pay for that day...guess what, hardly anyone called in sick.
 
 
And if it was a federal activity or agency... lucky they don't have a pile of lawsuits... maybe they do and you just don't know about it.
dhacker56  
#17 Posted : Sunday, May 22, 2011 11:03:17 PM(UTC)
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Ryos wrote:

dhacker56 wrote:
HIPAA  would prevent the Doctor's office from giving any medical info.  And the Supervisor sets himself up for a suit if it is proven he is trying to gain someone's private medical info.


They can't go into the particulars but they should at least verify whether they signed the form.  If they aren't willing to do that, they would have to provide limited information to law enforcement.  Sick leave provides plenty of potential abuse for people who would rather not use their annual or other types of leave and that constitutes fraud, waste, and abuse.


Law enforcement would need a warrant to obtain that info... Probable cause is required due to privacy issues.  I can not see a judge granting a warrant because a supervisor suspects an employee of abusing SL.  More important issues for our courts to address.  You guys act like this is a national security issue.
Tic3  
#18 Posted : Monday, May 23, 2011 1:57:31 AM(UTC)
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On these forums, I've often recommended employees with problems have a frank talk with their supervisors about the issue rather than letting things build up, threaten law suits, buy into the rumor/gossip mill.

I would recommend the same with you.  Sit down with your employee and open a dialog.  Let him/her know you have some concerns about the amount of work not getting done.  Ask if there is anything going on that you can help with.  Discuss alternate work schedules.  Consider telework arrangements. 

Keep the discussion about the work, rather than the leave.  Let the employee know how his/her absence impacts the office/agency mission and how/if it impacts the workload of others.  Try to work together to find a solution that works for both of you.

Sometimes employees have health issues and need to take what may seem to be an excessive amount of leave.  Paid sick leave is an employee's benefit.  They earn it, same as they earn their pay, but if their absence is impacting the workload (i.e., if work is not getting done), then the workload issue must be addressed.

The place to start is a discussion with the employee about the workload and proceed from there.  The advice about consulting HR or Employee Relations is very good advice.  Be sure to check with them before and after you speak with the employee about the workload issue.



Eddoyle82  
#19 Posted : Monday, May 23, 2011 2:40:36 AM(UTC)
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Just an FYI at my old org. the rules Labor agreement said that even if you asked for a doctors note the employee could self certify and that was that. You had to have a good pattern of abuse a represented in the T&A system and then you had to do the whole counseling work thru thing and it often came back as a non starter. What if they felt sick a few hours ago when they called you and when you see them at Walmart they feel better? There are lots of grey areas in Sick Leave that make it really hard to get any traction now matter how much you know they are goldbricking.
"If the Devil knocks on enough doors, someone will invite him in for tea."
StellaMaris  
#20 Posted : Monday, May 23, 2011 5:12:30 AM(UTC)
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"Too bad the fed should do what my last job did...not sick pay unless you are off for three days or more..and you needed a doctors note. If you were off for one day, too bad, no pay that day...use annual leave to make up your pay for that day...guess what, hardly anyone called in sick."
 
That's sad.  Suppose you have a doctor's appointment for a colonoscopy?  or radiation treatments?  or having a tooth pulled?  That's a pretty unhealthy organization to dock you leave without pay or force you to use annual leave.  What about FMLA? 
 
I bet the turnover in that company is quite high or in an area that there is a captive audience in dire need of work. 
StellaMaris2011-05-23 13:18:35
Great Spirit, let me not judge another until I have walked in his moccasins a moon or two.
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