Maryland Bills Address Paid Sick Leave Abuse

A PSL “thumbs up” to both chambers of the Maryland legislature for acknowledging the existence of sick leave abuse. The initial drafts of HB 1 and SB 230 had a very tepid, almost indiscernible, provision on sick leave abuse. It stated that the law does not “prohibit an employer from adopting and enforcing a policy that limits an employee to using Earned Sick and Safe Leave only for the reasons” listed in the PSL law.  Somewhere in those words is some message about sick leave abuse, perhaps. colorful-1237240_1280

The most recent draft of the legislation added much-needed heft. It states that the law does not “prohibit an employer from adopting and enforcing a policy that prohibits the improper use of Earned Sick and Safe Leave, including prohibiting a pattern of abuse of Earned Sick and Safe Leave.”

Adding a provision on the fraudulent use of PSL was one of my musings to add balance to PSL laws, posted here.  It is unclear what the terms of the final bill will be, or whether a bill will be enacted in Maryland. But a big PSL “thumbs up” to the Maryland General Assembly for acknowledging an issue that has gotten too little attention in the PSL debate and too little ink in PSL laws.

Super Bowl Fever Hits Hawaii Correction Officers and Others

More than one third of corrections officers in Hawaii called out sick on Super Bowl Sunday, according to the Hawaii Department of Public Safety. Of 733 officers scheduled to work that day, 260, more than 35%, called out sick. On Super Bowl Sunday last year 230 officers called out sick.

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But Super Bowl fever is a national phenomenon. An estimated 16.5 million U.S. employees may have caught “Super Bowl 50 Fever” during last year’s Super Bowl, according to a report from The Workforce Institute at Kronos. “Simply being tired from staying up late watching the game was the top reason for both calling in sick (40 percent) and showing up late (41 percent) on Monday unannounced,” according to that report.

Fraudulent call outs are not limited to the Super Bowl. Fourteen percent of employees report having missed work or been late due to a sporting event; 9% due to a celebration parade, 8% for an awards event such as the Oscars or Grammys; and 7% due to a political debate or rally, according to that report.   Nor is the fraudulent use of sick time linked just to big events. According to the Kronos Global Absence Survey, 52 percent of U.S. employees said they have called in sick when they were not actually sick.

The fraudulent use of sick days is hardly acknowledged in the paid sick leave debate. The “flu with your fries” mantra suggests that employees only use sick days for legitimate reasons, which is clearly not the case.  Here are a few steps every PSL jurisdiction, or jurisdiction contemplating a PSL, should consider:

Recognize that a certain percentage of sick day use is fraudulent.  Very few PSL laws include a provision prohibiting fraudulent use of PSL. The San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Ordinance defines a “pattern of suspected abuse.” The now voided Portland (OR) Protected Sick Time Ordinance also addressed the issue. Such a provision should be in every PSL law and the notice employers are required to post should inform employees that using sick time for other than its intended purpose is fraud and may be grounds for discipline, including termination of employment.

Recognize that fraudulent use of PSL imposes a significant hardship on co-workers, who must work harder or longer to cover for the abuser.  This hardship is a significant cost and is typically not recognized in the studies that evaluate the costs imposed by PSL laws.

Allow employers to require documentation to support the use of PSL when the employer has a good faith basis for suspecting fraud. Most PSL laws prohibit employers from requesting documentation unless and until the employee has been out of work at least three consecutive days.  This prohibition requires an employer to investigate suspected abuse with both hands ties behind its back.

Recognize that paying overtime to replace those who call out sick fraudulently is a cost of PSL leave.

The Grammys were last night. Take a look at your call out list today. Could it be that  some have Grammy fever? The Academy Awards are less than two weeks away. Get ready for that fever as well!