The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


June 3, 2014

Your Office Coach: Be careful raising delicate issue of co-worker’s sick leave

Question: One of our co-workers routinely takes medical leave for an ongoing “emotional problem.“ For the last six years, “Sonia“ has missed several days during each pay period. Amazingly, she always seems to need the exact number of days that we are allowed to take.

Sonia does an excellent job when she is here, and we do feel compassion for her emotional difficulties. However, her frequent absences are beginning to affect morale. Whenever she is out, the rest of us have to take up the slack and serve her customers as well as our own.

We feel that Sonia is taking unfair advantage of the leave policy, but so far management doesn’t seem to be addressing the issue. What should we do about this?

Answer: Although most people use medical leave appropriately, dishonest employees sometimes find ways to game the system. I have no way of knowing whether Sonia falls into this category, but I do know that six years is a long time to expect co-workers to cover for her.

Because medical records are confidential, management can’t discuss Sonia’s circumstances with you. So instead of questioning the validity of her leave requests, explain how these frequent absences are affecting the business, then ask for help in handling the extra work.

For example: “As you know, Sonia takes several days of medical leave each month. Because we have to divide up her workload, customers don’t get served as quickly, and we can’t spend as much time with them. Sonia’s personal situation is not our concern, but we would like to explore some options for dealing with her absences.“

Abuse of leave is a tricky issue, so managers who suspect cheating should consult with an experienced labor attorney. When employees look for clever ways to get paid for not working, management must find equally clever ways to close those loopholes.

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