Got a wicked case of spring fever? Before you call into the office and use up a “sick” day, you might be interested to hear what happened to Giovanni Bonanno, a bus dispatcher in Staten Island, New York, when he tried that.
As you may remember the Mid-Atlantic States took a severe beating this past winter from Mother Nature with record setting snow falls recorded in New York City’s Central Park and much of the surrounding area. It should therefore come as no surprise that by mid-February a lot of folks were looking to escape the ice and snow. They dreamed of a place in the sun and warm sandy beaches.
Mr. Bonanno apparently did more than just dream about it. He booked a flight to Florida and starting on March 14th called into his supervisor saying he was taking a Family and Medical Leave Act absence. He did that on March 15th, and again on March 16th. It went on for a total of ten, count ‘em, ten consecutive days.
His employer, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) finally got suspicious and investigated. News accounts of the event don’t identify what tipped the MTA off, screaming seagulls in the distance whenever Mr. Bonanno called in, or the fact chronic abuse of sick leave policy was known to be rampant in certain pockets of the organization. Either way, the MTA’s investigation revealed that Mr. Bonanno, who owned property in Florida, had booked his March round-tip get away in mid-February.
When Mr. Bonanno returned to the job things got ugly. The MTA accused him of lying about his sick time leave, and to make a long story short, Mr. Bonanno, 62, retired shortly thereafter, walking away from weeks of unused vacation time that could no longer be cashed out after his “retirement.”
Under the MTA’s Family and Medical Leave program, employees are required to provide documentation from a health care provider verifying that they or an immediate member of their family have a condition that qualifies for leave under the Act. Looks like Mr. Bonanno skipped that step.
Sick time abuse is nothing new. It happens. At some companies it happens more than at others. Most employers look the other way over a day here or there. The administrative cost of collecting doctor’s notes isn’t worth the time and trouble. But a number of consecutive absences in a row are another story.
Abuse of business absence and leave policies is costly. On the one hand is the issue of whether the employee is paid for the time off. On the other hand is the added burden the absence places on co-workers who have to pick up the slack or the delays that are created and opportunities foregone because nothing gets done until that employee returns.
Spring fever is a rite of the changing seasons, but to minimize the impact on your business and career it helps to keep a few simple things in mind:
? If you are an employer, make sure your sick leave and absence policies are widely distributed and available to all employees;
? Make sure the policies are written in plain, easy to understand language;
? Revise the policies if employees are taking unfair advantage of ambiguities;
? Apply the policies consistently, don’t make exceptions for the “teacher’s pet;”
? If you are an employee, exercise good judgment in using authorized sick leave;
? Remember that extended sick leave that is unsubstantiated by a medical care provider invites employer inquiries and can have undesirable consequences, as it did for Mr. Bonanno.