Approximately half of all US executives take sick days when not sick, a practice known to companies that borders on fraud. While many employees call in “sick” once or twice a year at most –even for “mental health reasons,” others abuse the system by staying sick for weeks, recuperating at sporting matches, on cruises, or while making home improvements.
In response to this corporate policy abuse, many employers have contracted business investigators to conduct surveillance and provide reports on cases where the employee’s sick claim seems “shady.” While employees often feel “entitled” to this time off, this isn’t a view shared at the top of the corporate ladder.
According to an article in Business Week, “57 percent of U.S. salaried employees take sick days when they’re not really sick—a nearly 20 percent increase from statistics gathered between 2006 and 2008. ” An increasing trend ill-timed due to an uncertain economic future facing many companies.
The need for corporate investigators is growing and companies are willing to pay investigators for investigative services due to the fact that losses on productivity, wages, and salary cost the company much more in the long run. There’s a difference in perspective between “management” and “labor,” and management’s been backed by the courts in that the sick-day “hooky” investigations are viewed as fraud.
- An award-winning teacher was arrested in Pennsylvania earlier this summer and charged with lying to employers and colleagues about an inoperable brain tumor. She took extended sick leave so that she could go on vacation. The woman was arrested.
- Four firefighters in Massachusetts were under surveillance while they attended hockey matches to recuperate from their illnesses. They were suspended.
- A Florida woman–supposedly out with the flu–was healthy enough to ride roller coasters at Universal Studios; at the end of the ride, pictures available for purchase were picked up by a private investigator and submitted to her employer. She was fired.
Spoof Cards are popular among employees playing hooky because they allow for people to enter in their home numbers to fool caller ID systems; employees could call their employers from a baseball game, but the number on the employers phone system would document the employee as being at home. On the corporate side, there’s the LiarCard, a card that helps human resources professionals determine if people are telling the truth over the phone.
No matter which “side” you’re on, know that calling in sick in an effort to receive pay or benefits while enjoying the time off is under scrutiny.