Faking an Illness


I’m the senior manager at our branch. After I stopped one of our exempt employees from what I considered a paid time off (PTO) scam in which she repeatedly worked an hour or two a day when on personal leave and claimed full day pay so she didn’t need to deduct the day from her PTO, she acted personally affronted. Then she announced she had a potentially terminal illness.

Our employees have rallied around her, hugging her and bringing her treats. Several have donated PTO to her leave bank so she won’t need to worry as her illness progresses. I suspect she’s faking this disease. Others on our manager team think I’m being unfair and say that no one would do such a thing. What are my options?


You can’t accuse an employee of faking an illness, based on nothing more than your suspicion. You can, however, investigate as long as you don’t create a hostile work environment, violate privacy rights, create the appearance of retaliation or interfere with her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act.

When Colorado postal boss Caroline Boyle faked a cancer diagnosis to get time off of work, she got away with it for nearly two years, until she misspelled the name of her supposed physician in the forged doctors’ notes she provided her supervisor. Boyle’s scam enables her to work from home, work part-time, attend regular doctor appointments and take paid administrative leave that didn’t subtract from her sick leave balance.

Appallingly, Boyle allegedly mistreated one of her former employees, Lisa Roberts, who did have cancer. Roberts said Boyle accused her of faking cancer because she hadn’t lost her hair and denied her accommodations to deal with her pain, nausea, and fear. Boyle allegedly modeled her fraudulent records on Roberts’ real ones and asked for accommodations she hadn’t given Roberts. Last March, a federal grand jury indicted Boyle and she pleaded guilty, after admitting she had intended to keep up her cancer ruse until she retired. (http://www.denverpost.com/2017/08/25/us-postal-boss-cancer-sufferer-faking/)

© 2017, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry writes a column on workplace issues. She is the author of “Solutions” and “Beating the Workplace Bully” and founded The Growth Company, an Avitus company. Curry is now a Regional Director of Training and Business Consulting at Avitus Group. Send your questions to her at Lcurry@avitusgroup.com, follow her on Twitter @lynnecurry10 or at www.workplacecoachblog.com

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