when your employer catches you forging a doctor’s note to get out of work

A reader writes:

I’m asking this question on behalf of my boyfriend, who is dealing with a complicated situation at work.

In the beginning of June, he verbally discussed some taking time off in mid-July with his boss several times. He got confirmation that it would be fine, but nothing was in writing. His PTO time didn’t renew until July 1st, so he knew the request would be denied if he submitted the official request for time off before that date. He submitted a time off form on July 2nd for time off starting on July 9th. The official request as denied because there wasn’t two weeks notice. My boyfriend was upset about this because he had already purchased a flight to Cuba based on the verbal confirmation from his boss. There was no refund available for the travel arrangements available to him. I don’t think the job was aware he was traveling out of the country.

My boyfriend decided to tell his job that he was having a medical procedure done and that it was medically necessary for him to have those days off. He presented a fake doctor’s note and they agreed to let him take the time off. He goes to Cuba for a week, and upon his return, they request a note stating that he’s medically ok to come back to work. From what he told me, his boss and manager were both very skeptical of his story for a few of reasons, but they couldn’t prove anything initially.

They called a meeting with him and the HR department and asked if there was anything he wanted to tell them about the medical note, and he told them he had nothing to say regarding it. They brought up a few issues and asked him to address them. First, he didn’t mention a medical reason until after they denied his time off request. Second, they tried to reach him for quick questions about clients during the time off and couldn’t. Third, they called the medical office to verify his note, and the doctor denied even knowing he was a patient. My boyfriend was subsequently fired for falsifying documents on his second day back at work after the trip.

He claims that his HIPAA rights were violated because there is a law saying that the employer must have authorization from the employee before attempting to verify a medical note. I work in the medical field, and I told him that HIPAA doesn’t apply to him because at the end of the day, he actually isn’t a patient of the medical facility. I’m not sure if there is some other law applicable to employers and employees regarding medical notes, time off, etc.

For the record, I told him not to create a fake note and to just eat the financial loss on the travel arrangements, but he didn’t listen. In addition, he has been putting in hours towards a certification for his field and will lose three years worth of time if the employer doesn’t certify that he put that time in. He has contacted his lawyer, who advised him to apply for unemployment benefits, and that if the job denies them, he can then go to a hearing to try and claim that the employer was in error by reaching out to the medical provider without his authorization. I told him to just cut his losses and give up on going back to work there. At the most, he might be able to get his hours certificate back and negotiate what will be said to future employers seeking a reference.

What do you think, Alison and readers?

You are correct.

As far as I know, simply attempting to verify the authenticity of the note doesn’t violate any laws. (It’s possible that the doctor’s office erred in confirming that he wasn’t a patient there, but that’s on them — not on the employer.) He’s also raising the specter of HIPAA here, but as you correctly note, HIPAA would apply to the medical office but not to apply to his employer.

More importantly, though, why is he even going in that direction?

He forged a note, and he’s going on the attack? He got caught forging a medical document. The only reasonable course of action here is for him is to realize that he did something incredibly unethical and lacking in integrity, something that any employer would consider a no-brainer firing offense, and to slink off quietly and vow never to do anything like that again.

I’m sure you know this, but he’s making himself very unsympathetic here. Forging a doctor’s note isn’t smart or ethical, but fine, he messed up. But he’s making himself look so much worse by not accepting responsibility for the situation and by trying to push some of the blame on to others. This is his mess — he’s the one who really screwed up here. By not facing up to that, he’s coming across so much more terribly than he otherwise would. (Don’t get me wrong; forging the note was pretty bad and his employer didn’t have any choice but to fire him for it. But it could have been a momentary lapse in judgment. What he’s doing now says something much deeper about his character.)

From a practical standpoint, if he tries to go on the attack, it’s going to destroy any remaining good will that anyone at his company might have had for him. If his former employer was feeling willing to verify the hours for his certification and/or to negotiate a decent or at least neutral reference, they’re really unlikely to be willing to do that if he tries to turn this around as something they did wrong.

The best thing he can to is admit full responsibility and stop trying to accuse them of anything. He forged a note, he got caught, and the more he fights that, the worse he looks.

{ 635 comments… read them below }

  1. KT*

    What the want?

    How did he really think this was going to go? I can even understand being young and stupid and thinking forging a note was a good idea (still awful and unethical, but I can forgive it) if he had owned up to it, begged forgiveness, and limped away with his tail between his legs.

    But to get indignant and blame the employer? That’s ridiculous and your boyfriend’s character as a person has been exposed.

    1. GigglyPuff*

      That’s what I’m wondering the meeting with HR was about, them wanting him to own up to the lie, ask for forgiveness, explain what happened and maybe he wouldn’t have gotten fired. (Although nobody would ever see him the same way at that job again)

      1. KT*

        That’s what it sounded like to me…if like the credit card guy he had fessed up, admit he had felt helpless and just panicked, they might have reprimanded him but he could have kept his job…by digging in his heels and now consulting attorneys, I’m pretty sure he’s out this job and his 3 years needed for certification.

        He just kept on digging that hole.

        1. LQ*

          Wait I thought the credit card guy did get to keep the job? He worked out a payment plan with the company? Or was the second part about this guy?

          1. KT*

            Yes, that’s what I meant…if he had been like the credit card guy and fessed up, he would have been okay…instead he lied and dug in his heels

            1. LQ*

              Ok good, I’m having slight brain fail today! I agree with this though, fessing up may have helped a lot.

          2. CollegeAdmin*

            The credit card guy did keep his job. KT is talking about the boyfriend here:

            “…if[,] like the credit card guy[,] [the boyfriend] had fessed up, admit he had felt helpless and just panicked, they might have reprimanded him but he could have kept his job…by digging in his heels and now consulting attorneys, I’m pretty sure he’s out this job and his 3 years needed for certification.”

          3. SilverRadicand*

            I believe the second part is about the OP. I think KT means that since the OP didn’t act with the same honesty and forthrightness as the credit card guy, that the OP is going to lose the job and, most likely, the time towards certification.

            1. Kelly L.*

              And really, the credit card guy “should” have been fired too, if we’re talking about deservingness–it’s kind of a miracle he didn’t. I think at the time, we were urging him to fess up so it would only be firing and not prosecution.

          4. SL*

            I think the second part was meant about the OP’s boyfriend, not the credit card guy. CC Guy did indeed keep his job and is working out a payment plan with the company.

      2. Liza*

        Like when Simon Illyan asked Miles if there was anything he needed to tell him about that last mission report… (Lois McMaster Bujold’s Memory, great book with some good management in it!)

        1. Artemesia*

          Exactly Miles got his eyes torn off for being a liar not for having gotten his crewman so seriously injured. It really does look like the HR department was trying to give him a break until he doubled down on the lie.

          1. Trillian*

            To those who don’t know the series (read it, it’s great!), that’s kind of a disturbing image. :-)

            For the record, it’s referring to insignia.

            1. teclatwig*

              Such a heart-wrenching scene, and lol, I suppose it does sound gory if you don’t know that the eyes are slang for specific insignia.

        2. Cat*

          That is one of my favorite books. And a nice reminder that people can screw up massively without being bad people, but that that doesn’t insulate them from the consequences of screwing up either.

        3. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          This world needs more Vorkosigan references! Memory is kind of a comfort book for me, especially when things aren’t going well. It’s a great treatise on how to move on after royally screwing up.

        4. LizB*

          I’ve had Memory sitting on my “to read” bookshelf for a few months now… thanks to this thread, I think I’ll bump it up to next on my list!

          1. Cat*

            It’s wonderful, but if you haven’t read any of the other Vorkosigan books, I wouldn’t start with it. At least you should definitely have read Mirror Dance first.

            1. Algae*

              Ok, so I’ve only read A Civil Campaign, but want to read more. Which one should I read next?

              1. Liza*

                Here’s the author’s recommendation for what order to read them in: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/293438-the-vorkosigan-saga-reading-order-debate-the-chef-recommends

                If you want more Ekaterin, you could read Komarr next (it comes right before A Civil Campaign), but reading Memory first would give more context to Komarr. Or you could start at the very beginning with Cordelia’s book(s): Shards of Honor and Barrayar, which are sometimes seen in one volume as Cordelia’s Honor.

                I personally read them all out of order the first time and didn’t notice I had skipped several books, because Lois does such a good job of subtly cluing you in to what has happened before!

              2. Liza*

                My reply is in moderation because it has a link in it, but there is (IMHO) no *bad* order to read them, because Lois does such a good job of dropping clues about what has happened in previous books. The reading order question is hotly debated, though. :-)

                1. That a song, was as merry*

                  Well, that’s kinda true…but I really wouldn’t read ‘Memory’ without having read ‘Brother in Arms’ and ‘Mirror Dance’ first. ‘Memory’ has a big emotional wallop (I always yell “NO! Miles, don’t do it!” and it never helps…) that’s really diluted if you haven’t gotten to know the characters.

              3. Cat*

                Ooh, that is a fascinating question. I think I would not read the books written/taking place after A Civil Campaign yet, because while they’re chronologically next, I don’t think they’re the best.

                I’d do one of two things, depending on what your reaction to ACC was. Did you think (a) “I really want to know the immediate backstory of this situation?” or did you think (b) “I want to know everything about Miles?” or did you think (c) “I want to know everything about this world?

                If (a), I’d read Mirror Dance, then Memory, then Komarr. Those are the books immediately preceding A Civil Campaign and, in my opinion, those four books make up the very, very best of the series. Then I’d just to (b) or (c) below, depending on your subsidiary reaction.

                If (b), I’d go to A Warrior’s Apprentice, which is the first Miles book. Follow one of the chronological reading lists from there, and then, when you finish, you can decide whether to go back to the Cordelia books.

                If (c), I’d read the two Cordelia books, Shards of Honor and Barrayar, then go to (b) and read the Miles books in chronological order.

                There are other books that aren’t in the main time stream that are worth reading, but I wouldn’t start with them.

                1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

                  I think I would not read the books written/taking place after A Civil Campaign yet, because while they’re chronologically next, I don’t think they’re the best.

                  Except for maybe Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard at a book as I did during the first time I read the climax of that one. Just thinking about it is making me chuckle. That said, the reason it’s so dang funny is all the weight of the backstory behind it, so your advice is still valid.

                2. Cat*

                  Yes, THAT SCENE in Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance was amazing. I did enjoy the whole book, but felt like it was more “adjacent” to the series than part of the series proper if that makes any sense?

                  But I am extremely excited about the new Cordelia book.

              4. Natalie M*

                Like Liza said, there’s no bad order. If you like the Cultural Intrigue on Foreign Planets aspects of Civil Campaign, you could start with Shards of Honor. If you like Miles personally or the military adventure bits, you can start with The Warrior’s Apprentice. But honestly, you could start with Memory and Komar, and then go backwards too. Just be prepared to read Memory, Komar, and A Civil Campaign again for the layers of history you discover. (I read all the Vorkosigan books over and over anyway.)

              5. Pinkie Pie Chart*

                I would recommend starting at the beginning, but that’s where I started, so I’m a little biased. I think you do need to understand the world and the characters, or Memory won’t make nearly as much sense. And they are all worth reading! Shards of Honor and Barrayar are two of my favorites in the series, but aren’t necessary. (That’s how Cordelia gets to Barrayar.) I would suggest Warrior’s Apprentice and Mirror Dance at the very least.

        5. I'm a Little Teapot*

          OMG, that’s one of my favorite books! It absolutely perfectly nails how it feels to completely screw up and feel like you’re the worst person ever. Take it from someone who’s been fired from multiple jobs, sometimes deservedly.

        6. Natalie M*

          When I reread Memory, I start with Ivan dropping Miles in the ice bath. Everything before that is too painful.

          Memory does have some good management, but I’ve always thought there was a bit of bad personnel reading too. How could anyone (much less Gregor AND Simon) misread Miles’s hunger for recognition so badly? I know he shouldn’t have done the things he did and he deserved his ImpSec career termination, but if they’d just promoted him to Captain on schedule… Maybe it’s just because I hate when people watch you screw up and then go “oh, but I had a plan for you, too bad!”

          1. Just another techie*

            Maybe it’s just because I hate when people watch you screw up and then go “oh, but I had a plan for you, too bad!”

            This is why I can’t bear the Harry Potter series. How many of the bad things that happened could have been prevented by Dumbledore just telling Harry about the prophecy? Augh!

          2. Liza*

            Natalie, that’s a really good point about Simon and Gregor. Huh. (Though I think one could argue he wasn’t due for that promotion yet because of time spent on medical leave, based on his conversation with Ivan after Ivan was promoted.)

            1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

              Considering he got his promotion to lieutenant less than a year after becoming an Ensign, and all the things he’d done since then, I think he was waaaay overdue.

          3. Pinkie Pie Chart*

            When I reread Memory, I start with Ivan dropping Miles in the ice bath. Everything before that is too painful.

            Yeah, I read the very beginning, but as soon as they start heading home and Miles starts writing, I skip ahead.

    2. Sparky*

      About ten years ago a coworker was caught forging some medical excuse. All I remember by now is that she made up the clinic that the imaginary doctor worked at, it was The Chaucer Clinic. I can’t even remember the coworker’s name at this point. She was also fired. There were other attendence issues with her, I remember that she made home made tentlike dresses in Denver Broncos colors and wore them every day. I wonder where she is now?

    3. Forgery is illegal*

      I’m no doctor, but if its MY signature he’s forging, he might be looking at a lawsuit. Maybe even from my malpractice insurer. Or even criminal charges. It’s hard to get to Cuba from jail.

    1. Cautionary tail*

      Bizarre? Duck. Quack quack.
      I had to put that in there. :)

      This was stupid and unfortunately I know people who would do this and have even coached people who did similarly stupid things like this to grovel and beg forgiveness. In their cases they got to keep their jobs and got one more chance but this guy already blew his. I wonder, for the OP, if he’ll do this to people at his work, why wouldn’t he do this to other people in his life, like you?

    2. Van Wilder*

      Agreed all of the above. Seems like a very illogical jump to forging a doctor’s note without trying to reason with his manager first.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        Not completely illogical, if the OPs boyfriend couldn’t be sure they would get the aproval after talking to their manager then I can see why they might think that forging the note would be more likely to work before having the conversation rather than after.

  2. GigglyPuff*

    I’m just wondering, did he got straight to forging the doctor’s note, without talking to his manager about the time off request? Because it sounds like the official request was an automatic denial because of the two weeks notice required, possibly by the software system or maybe someone in HR.
    I’d really like to know if the manager was the one who denied the “official” request or not, and if the boyfriend even tried to discuss it. Because if he didn’t talk to his manager, that is just such a huge leap to forging a note.

    1. Eva G.*

      This was my first thought too. Did he even try to talk with his manager about the pickle he found himself in to see if there was something she could do to get him the time off after all? It doesn’t sound like it from the information we’ve been given.

    2. Allison*

      I thought this as well, if he had brought it up with his manager and/or gone to HR in person to explain the situation he may very well have gotten that time off. The fact that he didn’t even attempt to fight it and went straight to forging a note is a little odd.

    3. BRR*

      Yeah it sounds like the system couldn’t handle this or it broke policy. The boyfriend should have gotten it in writing but I’m curious if he went to his manager and brought it up that it was previously approved and he made nonrefundable plans based on that approval. I might be crossing the line into reading into a letter too much but I’m also curious if he just discussed taking time off in mid-July as the letter said or taking off specific dates. I’m not sure that makes a difference but it might.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        This is why you don’t buy non-refundable international plane tickets without written approval for vacation requests. If your company doesn’t track vacation themselves, email your boss and say “just to confirm, I will be taking vacation July 21-28.”

            1. Nerdling*

              Bereavement is covered, thankfully. Sent a copy of the obituary and that was that. Otherwise, I’m not sure.

            2. Beebs the Elder*

              I had to have emergency surgery and wasn’t able to fly so I had to cancel a vacation–the insurance paid, though I had to get medical documentation. Best $100 I ever spent. (And the only time I have ever bought insurance–I guess I just had a feeling.)

          1. BRR*

            I get travel insurance for international flights (usually covers health as well). I likely wouldn’t buy refundable, they cost about twice as much.

          2. Katie the Fed*

            You should check your credit card terms too – I have a United Airlines credit card and when I had my accident this year I was able to get all of my travel reservations refunded through the insurance offered as part of the card.

          3. Anonsie*

            I’ve never seen travel insurance that was worth it (purchased separately or through my credit card) for anything other than natural disaster, political unrest, illness, or death. The ones that cover all cancellations are costly enough IME that you may as well take the risk and eat the cost if there is a problem.

            1. Carpe Librarium*

              For international travel I have one word: Medical.

              You do not want to be stuck in a foreign country with a broken leg or something trying to sort out whatever government care may or may not be available to foreigners.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          If I received verbal approval:
          * I would immediately email my boss confirming approval
          * I would include my vacation dates from that time forward in my weekly activity report.
          The manager would have a hard time saying he didn’t know/approve with that level of documentation. Not to say a manager can’t revoke it, but it puts the pressure back on the company if he vacation is denied.

    4. Blue Anne*

      This was my immediate question to. If I had an agreement with my manager like this and then my request got rejected because I’d technically not followed policy, the very first thing I’d do would be to go to my manager and say “Hey, I have flights booked based on our conversation, can you let them know that we discussed this more than two weeks ago?”

      1. catsAreCool*

        “would be to go to my manager and say “Hey, I have flights booked based on our conversation, can you let them know that we discussed this more than two weeks ago?”” This!

    5. Ad Astra*

      The way it’s written, it does sound like it was some kind of automatic rejection through a software system. Would the manager not have the authority to override that? It doesn’t sound like the manager changed his mind about the time off, but maybe that detail is just omitted.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It sounds to me like he didn’t try to talk to them about it, because the OP writes, “I don’t think the job was aware he was traveling out of the country.” That should have been the first step.

      1. OP HERE !!!!*

        Yes, there was some tension between him and his boss due to an earlier incident in May where he felt she threw him under the bus. Prior to this incident, he had only gotten a verbal warning at work in May of this year. He has been with the company about three years. The verbal warning was due to the fact that too many of his case notes were incomplete. He had previously expressed to his boss that he was too overwhelmed with all the special projects he was being assigned, and couldn’t keep up with everything else. When the director did a random review, she noticed the incomplete cases, and questioned the boss who then threw him under the bus, likely to save herself.

    7. Kelly L.*

      Yep. And in his shoes, I would have talked to the manager way back when i was first planning the trip, too, because it sounds like he was trying to avoid another auto-denial by waiting till the last minute (since the system couldn’t handle it if he made the request before his PTO reloaded). The system sounds like a PITA, but forging notes instead of trying to find a work-around with live humans…not a good idea.

    8. Van Wilder*

      Agreed all of the above. Seems like a very illogical jump to forging a doctor’s note without trying to reason with his manager first.

    9. LBK*

      This is where I’m getting hung up…if I saw a request for a vacation I’d previously discussed with my manager had been denied, I’d be in his office in a second trying to figure out what happened, not plotting a way to get around it. I’m hoping that is actually what happened and the OP just left it out for the sake of brevity since this was already a fairly long story.

    10. Nobody*

      I can see his logic. Don’t get me wrong, it was a horrible thing to do, and I am disgusted by people who call in sick when they’re not really sick (even if they don’t forge a doctor’s note), but I get what he was thinking.

      He requested vacation and it was rejected, but due to the non-refundable tickets, he really needed the time off, and he figured the only way he could get the time off was to pretend to be sick. If he called in sick those days, though, it would obviously look suspicious (since he had just requested vacation), so he decided to head off the suspicion by saying that the vacation time he requested was actually to get a medical procedure — hence the forged doctor’s note. A company with such strict vacation policies probably has a policy requiring a doctor’s note for more than X sick days.

      He probably didn’t tell them he had planned a trip out of the country and purchased non-refundable tickets because if they still said no, they would obviously know he was lying if he later changed his story and said he was getting a medical procedure.

      BTW, I don’t get the impression that it was some computer system that denied his leave. My employer requires two weeks’ notice for vacation requests, and there’s no computer system for requesting vacation, but the managers will automatically reject a request made less than two weeks in advance, no matter what the reason. They will, however, allow employees to request vacation that is not yet accrued but will be by the time it is taken.

    11. Mel in HR*

      I, too, was wondering about this part. I feel like it’s a big jump to go from a request denial to forging a note.

    12. A good old canuck*

      It sounds like the OP’s boyfriend was also aware in advance that he would have to wait until July 1st to submit the vacation. I wonder why he didn’t address how he should have handled this issue (or if would create a problem) of submitting the request without the appropriate notice. Perhaps the manager could have provides some direction on how to address the issue.

      1. Koko*

        And in fact what I’m betting he would have been told is that the vacation system anticipates hours that you accrue in the future. I could book a 3-week vacation for six months from now even though I only have 2 weeks currently accrued, because our system would see that I’ll have 3 weeks+ by the time the request occurs.

    13. Koko*

      Yeah, there’s no way he even tried discussing the fact that he already had plane tickets and THEN tried to coincidentally have an urgent medical appointment for the same time period. This barely makes sense already but I definitely can’t see it going down that way.

    14. blushingflower*

      Yeah, I had the same reaction.
      I would have said “hey, boss, I know that there weren’t two weeks’ notice, but if you remember, we discussed this earlier this year and you said it would be okay, so I have plane tickets and they aren’t refundable. What can we do?”
      (This is also why it is often a good idea to have these convos via email, so you have documentation of your manager telling you it was okay)

  3. NickelandDime*

    Man…this is messed up. He was wrong, but I’m not in love with the leave policies of many companies. I also don’t love companies requesting doctor’s notes for being out, verification of medical visits, etc.,

    That being said, he should move on. Let this be a warning for others – if you choose to work at an employer, you have to adhere to their leave policies, whether you like them or not. And don’t make travel plans, purchase tickets, etc., unless you know you have approval on the leave you’d like to take.

    1. Anna*

      Yeah, the leave policy seems particularly onerous, but his situation can’t be the first time something like that has come up. Why didn’t he go through the channels of figuring out what the procedure might be for this particular situation? I feel like if your immediate response to a weird timing situation with vacation is to make up a medical procedure, you might not be the most clear-thinking person in the first place.

      1. NickelandDime*

        That’s why I had to point out first that he was dead wrong for doing this. Because even though I think his manager was wrong and they may have stupid leave policies, he shouldn’t have done all this. A vacation, even an expensive one, isn’t worth losing your job over.

        1. BRR*

          I feel for the boyfriend and I get his frustration at being denied and anger about losing money. I really wish he would have written in about his situation a couple weeks ago.

          1. MK*

            I get the frustration, but I cannot say I feel for him. Booking a vacation before you have official confirmation that you can take the time off is a risky move; you take your chances. And I don’t think there is anything particularly bad about the leave policy, two weeks notice is not unreasonable for a vacation. Also, there is no indication that the company verifies medical notes as a rule; it sounds to me as if this particular situation raised suspicions and they decided to investigate.

            By the way, I think people assume that his boss had agreed to the time off verbaly, but the OP actually says “he verbally discussed some taking time off in mid-July with his boss several times”. It’s not clear to me that the boss did in fact agree to give him the time off.

            1. BRR*

              I feel for him wanting to go on the vacation and not wanting to lose the money. That’s where I stop. I mentioned in another comment about if the dates were specified so I would like to know that as well and if he left it hazy I feel less for him.

              And it’s not that two weeks notice is unreasonable, it’s that software or policy prevented giving the notice.

            2. Apollo Warbucks*

              That’s such a good point, discussing the time off isn’t the same as the manager approving it verbally.

            3. Zillah*

              Well, he actually says:

              In the beginning of June, he verbally discussed some taking time off in mid-July with his boss several times. He got confirmation that it would be fine, but nothing was in writing.

              From that, it sounds like the boss did agree.

              1. Today I am Fiona*

                I wonder if that’s even an accurate representation of the previous conversation about time off with the boss though. If he’s going to make up a story about the doctor’s note and so adamantly insist it’s true even in the face of evidence to the contrary, I would probably end up questioning a lot of things he said ‘happened’.

                1. BRR*

                  To me this is another unknown. It could just be writing style to say they talked about time off or it could be they literally only discussed mid-July.

                2. Zillah*

                  Ehhh – he’s clearly behaved poorly and deserved to get fired, but it doesn’t sound like he’s “adamantly insisting that it’s true.” He’s claiming that the doctors shouldn’t have released any information without his consent. That’s super bizarre and off-base in a lot of ways, but it’s not insisting that the story was true.

                  There’s certainly cause to doubt a lot of what he said, but I’m not sure it’s fair to doubt that the manager did indicate that it would be okay to take time off mid-July, particularly since it seems like his girlfriend was likely told about it beforehand and it seems like the most normal part of the story.

              2. Meg Murry*

                Not to mention, July 2nd-9th is NOT “mid-July” in my book. That’s the first week of July, and also over the 4th, which has always been the most popular week for vacation in every office I’ve worked on outside Christmas and Thanksgiving – so he was probably rejected because too many people were already out not just the 2 week rule.

                1. Lillie Lane*

                  It sounds like the request was put in July 2, with the vacation starting the 9th — it wouldn’t be over the holiday weekend.

                2. Cath in Canada*

                  The mention of the vacation being to Cuba made me think the OP *probably* isn’t in the US (unless travel restrictions are lifting faster than I thought was happening), in which case July 4th is a moot point…

                3. Cath in Canada*

                  Fair enough! I thought it was still pretty restricted.

                  As a general point though, thanks to TV/other media and especially this blog, I now know way more about US employment laws than I do about their Canadian equivalents! I’m sure I wouldn’t be the only person in my office who would think of HIPAA or some other US law first and then translates it into the Canadian equivalent second :)

          2. OP HERE !!!!*

            I thought about it, but didn’t get around to it until he was back from the trip. He was fired the next day.

      2. Just another techie*

        Yeah it’s a crappy leave policy, but it sounds like he knew about some of the crappiness (can’t request time until the new year ticks over, even if the requested time is after you’ll get your allowance; have to make requests two weeks in advance) so I’m just wondering, why didn’t he book his trip for July 15th instead of the 9th? Then he’d have been in the clear.

        1. jamlady*

          Yeah the timing of the trip is something I questioned also. Based on the assumption he is super familiar with his company’s leave policies (as I hope he is), why did he choose this time (or agree to it when someone else planned a trip)? Could be several reasons behind it of course, but it’s generally known in my industry that August and September are off-limits for vacation and requesting time off during these months is an automatic rejection. We just can’t afford to be down in numbers so close to the end of the fiscal year.

          1. OP HERE !!!!*

            The purpose of the trip was business unrelated to his job. He owns land there and the dates were coordinated between a number of different contractors, his lawyer, and a business manager. It would have been difficult logistically to rescheudle all of these things I’m asusming.

      3. ThinkAboutIt*

        Our company does require a doctors note if the employee unexpectedly extends a holiday. For instance, we are required to work our full scheduled shift the day before and the day after any paid holiday or you do not get holiday pay. If an employee calls in sick the day prior or after he/she will not be paid the holiday – unless they provide proof of an illness or other unavoidable situation. We had to institute that policy because many of our employees come from Mexico to work and they go back for holidays with their families – they would just leave early or come back late saying they were sick and it put our production into a tailspin. Now that they know they will lose their holiday pay they save their vacation days for the holiday and schedule them appropriately. Sad that we had to resort to that, but it solved the problem.

  4. UKAnon*

    Honestly, I know this is going to go in the direction of a pile-on on the OP’s partner, but I do want to say that I think there’s blame on both sides here. His manager should have gone to bat for him on the holiday time, or at least made clear at the start that verbal guarantees meant nothing. Companies which play around with vacation like that and don’t try to be contrite even are inviting employees to lie to them about vacation time.

    That said, it really wasn’t the best of ideas. Do they have to certify his hours if he has actually done those hours? It seems odd that they would be able to essentially lie and say he hadn’t done them if he has… unless I’m missing something? Definitely avoiding further harm should be his first thought (and I’m sure there will be lots of good suggestions to go alongside Alison’s for how to do that)

    Unwise as it is to act on it, I also think his anger is understandable to an extent. Presumably he’s as angry about the holiday time snafu as he is about being fired, and I guess this is clouding his judgment. OP, I know how it feels to be in a relationship with this much workplace anger from the other party. Please look after yourself, give yourself a little bit of time now and then to be emotional yourself and give yourself whatever mental space you need to work through how your partner’s anger makes you feel (if it’s anything like me, it can be horribly frustrating at times and you really need to bite your tongue!)

    1. Helka*

      Yeah, I agree with you. I don’t think there’s going to be any question that what the OP’s boyfriend did was stupid and unethical, but his boss really left him hanging out to dry there, and that’s profoundly uncool. Playing games with people’s vacation time is a great way to flush employee morale and trust straight down the toilet.

      If he hadn’t decided to pull this stunt, that would have been a really valid talk to have with his boss and/or HR when he got the denial. “Hey, you gave me verbal confirmation on this, and there was no way for me to request this ahead of time because I didn’t have the available PTO then. It’s a real bind — can you do anything to help me out here?”

      1. NickelandDime*

        I got screwed like this with some time I thought I earned, which my manager approved. A very serious family emergency came up and I used that time. Then…I didn’t have it anymore. They retroactively took it from me, which resulted in me having an unpaid day. I got no sympathy or help on this.

        I am actively looking for work, and plan to let them know this did it at the exit interview.

        1. Ani*

          I really don’t understand why employers do this to their employees. It comes up anecdotally so often that it’s mind-boggling, really. At the very least it causes such unneccesary stress in lives of workers.

          1. SL*

            Personally, I think it’s got something to do with the fact that employers in most states (it might even be the whole country; please correct me if I’m wrong) aren’t legally required to give any paid vacation time at all, so they use that excuse to play fast and loose with vacation days when they can because it’s a perk and not a requirement of employing someone.

        2. OfficePrincess*

          Idk, that sounds pretty normal to me if I’m understanding it correctly. Everywhere I’ve worked, PTO is approved contingent on having time available (or, in cases where you can go negative, that you will not exceed the cap). I’ve had to change plans when things came up or I’ve gotten sick and had to use time I was planning to use later in the year. I had a conversation with my manager where she pointed out that I had 5 days requested off but only 3 available and asked which of the days was I going to come in for.

          1. Aunt Vixen*

            NickelandDime doesn’t mean she spent the day so then it was gone. She means she spent the day and then they retroactively decided she shouldn’t have had it in the first place. So instead of going from having $5 in her wallet to having $0 because she spent the five bucks, she went from having $5 in her wallet to owing them five bucks.

        3. Ad Astra*

          Why are so many employers weird about letting employees go negative in their PTO? If the employee quits before they accrue it all back, just take it out of the final paycheck. There’s got to be something I don’t know that would explain why it’s better to have employees take the day unpaid instead of borrowing PTO.

          1. blushingflower*

            Honestly, I don’t think it’s logical, I think it’s part of America’s pathological attitudes about work and vacation.
            Even places that have generous leave policies often act like you’re a bad person for wanting to actually use the leave that you have earned and are entitled to.

          2. BenAdminGeek*

            Exactly- the big companies I’ve worked at have allowed negative and then it comes out of your final check. It was only FirstJob that was weird about negative PTO, leading to me getting married, then working for another month to accrue some more time off, then taking my honeymoon. But that place had other issues as well, the PTO was just a symptom.

        4. Jeanne*

          I had an issue with sick days. I was an exempt employee with a chronic illness. When I took my first sick day past the limit, I went to my boss and asked what to do. Was I required to use vacation? My boss told me no, just put down sick day. Two months later, they said they had to take away a vacation day for that. I took it to HR and eventually the head of HR. I believed my boss and it was on her to know policies. I got my day back. But this kind of crap happens all the time.

      2. Anna*

        That’s the part I don’t understand. Why didn’t he first talk to his manager about their previous conversations? His first solution was to lie, which says a lot more to me about him than anything else.

        Either way, he should cut his losses and assess his next move.

        1. Laurel Gray*

          Yeah the “first solution was to lie” is the most unfortunate part about all this. I am one of those people that do believe that there are exceptions to rules and I believe that there could have been some kind of compromise and understanding if the OP’s boyfriend told his boss that due to their previous conversations, he went ahead and booked travel and showed the proof. Then if the boss denied the request, we would be looking at this situation entirely differently.

        2. Doodle*

          My guess is he panicked — unless he’s generally pretty shady and unethical, forging a doctor’s note seems like the behavior of someone who feels totally backed into a corner. NOT justifying it — just pondering what would send a previously good worker in this direction.

          As in many cases, the cover-up was far worse than the “crime”. He might have been fired if he had just said, “I understand this PTO wasn’t approved, but I made plans based on my manager’s verbal approval, and I need to take this trip,” but he could probably have salvaged his reference and the time in his certification program. And honestly, his manager would bear some of the blame in that situation. As it is, the company doesn’t feel the need to re-evaluate their leave processes or change their management procedures.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            I totally agree. Some people lie because they feel like they should be able to get away with anything, and some people do things they otherwise would never do because they panic. That said, that’s not a quality I want in an employee, if the “things they otherwise would never do” is something dishonest. That’s also not a quality I’d want in a partner, but the world is full of people who are fine with that.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              That last part was not a dig at the OP. I just meant that different people need/want different qualities in their partners.

          2. OP HERE !!!!*

            Yes, it’s spot on. He was otherwise a good employee and generally has a good character. I didn’t run back to him screaming “I TOLD YOU SO” because whats done is done at this point.

      3. BRR*

        If PTO time resets, what a stupid policy that you need to give two weeks notice to use it. If this is a fiscal year thing does this mean nobody can take additional time of for July 4th? No mater when it resets though, it’s a terrible policy.

        1. Laurel Gray*

          Good point, I wondered the same. At my company your addition 1+ weeks of vacation kick in on July 1 but you could request the days off months before you even have them.

        2. Blue Anne*

          Coming from an audit perspective… At the end of the year, unused holiday comes up in your accounting records as a liability owed to your employees, so most companies want to minimize it in order to minimize their liabilities. If you let your employees book lots of time off in the next financial year, and I find those records, I would feel pretty justified in viewing that as holiday owed to your employees. (Especially if it’s gone through a whole approval process.) If you haven’t recorded it outside of the holiday system, that’s an unrecognized liability, which is a big deal.

          I can’t be sure that’s their reasoning (I’m an auditor in the UK, not the US) but I’d lay good odds that it is.

          1. BRR*

            It’s interesting hearing it from an auditing perspective. That’s something I didn’t even think about.

          2. UK HR bod*

            Technically Blue Anne, this means that many companies in the UK are running at a liability – it’s pretty normal for a Jan-Dec holiday year, but a financial year ending in March / April. I’m obviously not speaking from an audit perspective here, but from an employment point of view, if in January I book holiday in October, it’s not a liability at the end of that financial year in March, as chances are I’ve not accrued it then. What is a liability is the holiday I have accrued from Jan to the end of March but not yet taken – that’s when you’d owe me 3 months of holiday from the previous financial year.

            1. Blue Anne*

              Yeah, I think that in that situation what would happen is you’d explain that the time hadn’t actually been accrued by the staff members yet, and so although you’d let them put it on the calendar they weren’t really owed it until they had accrued the time. I would probably want to take a sample of a few staff members and go through their holiday records, make sure that was all legit, agree the holiday accrual terms to their employment contracts. And then we’d be set.

        3. Ife*

          Right? I had that thought too. Seems stupid you can’t request time off that you’re scheduled to accrue (lazy programming? bad policy? who knows). However, it should go without being said that the reaction to that isn’t forging doctor’s notes! :)

      4. fposte*

        It’s possible the boss didn’t even know, though; it sounds not like permission was rescinded but that the form got auto-rejected.

    2. JMegan*

      Oh, I’d be pissed about that PTO request, for sure. It seems the rule is that a request for mid-July will be denied up to June 30 because the allotment hasn’t rolled over yet, and it will also be denied after July 1 because there isn’t enough notice. That’s ridiculous.

      And I can totally understand the temptation to walk out and take the vacation anyway, as a big eff-you to their stupid policies. I probably wouldn’t actually do it, and if I did I would certainly go the route of working *with* the management team to figure it out, rather than against them. (“I booked the vacation based on my manager’s verbal okay, and now it’s being denied. Can you help? Is there a way of overriding the software/ making up the time/ changing the dates?”)

      It’s all water under the bridge at this point, of course. I think your boyfriend acted pretty terribly. His anger was justifiable, but his behaviour was not. And he’s certainly not helping his cause by blaming the employer for asking these perfectly legitimate questions! I agree with Alison that his actions now are speaking volumes about his character, and it’s going to be a huge mess to sort out. Good luck, OP, and I hope you don’t get too caught up in the chaos. This is his problem to solve, not yours.

      1. Allison*

        “It seems the rule is that a request for mid-July will be denied up to June 30 because the allotment hasn’t rolled over yet, and it will also be denied after July 1 because there isn’t enough notice. That’s ridiculous.”

        It’s especially ridiculous because that’s a time of year where a lot of people typically want to take vacation time. it’s either bad planning or a really crappy way to prevent people from taking vacation at that time of year.

          1. Meg Murry*

            Or maybe that’s not how the system works but the boyfriend was confused? Or maybe there is a manual override the boss has to do?

            Given how crazy the rest of the story is, I’m wondering if that part is true or if it is a misunderstanding or mistake on the bf’s side.

            1. JMegan*

              I wondered that too, and also if this is the end-point of a series of other frustrations the BF had at work. There’s no denying that his behaviour was out of line, but there’s certainly a lot that we don’t know about this story!

        1. MashaKasha*

          Oh god, I haven’t even thought of it that way. It better be bad planning, because otherwise that’s pretty malicious!

      2. OP HERE !!!!*

        Yea, I certainly don’t agree with the course of acition he took , but like I stated elsewhere, he has other income streams so the paycheck wasn’t the greatest loss. The hours were in his opinion.

    3. neverjaunty*

      How could his manager go to bat with him when he apparently didn’t bother to ask the manager to do so?

      The leave situation is also a little weird. Boyfriend’s leave “renewed” on July 1 – that means he’d already used up his leave for the year, and he wanted to plan a vacation right after. With two weeks’ notice required, why not simply push the vacation a little later so he asks on July 1, gets the approval and then goes? Or realizes he’s in a weird situation so asks HR to make special arrangements? Or tells the manager “hey, I need that in writing?” There’s nothing here suggesting his manager blew him off, or did anything other than to say a request for leave was not a problem.

      I understand that there is often more than one side to a story, but sometimes the urge to spread the blame around evenly is misplaced.

      1. OfficePrincess*

        Good catch on renewing probably means he had used all of the previous time. Since busy season here is the end of the year, I always plan to roll over a few days so that I can take a break in January instead of waiting until enough accrues.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          In the uk you get to use you holiday in advance of it accuring but it gets taken out of your last pay check if you use to much, or paid out of youve got more than you’ve taken.

          1. LawBee*

            There are US companies work that way as well. How vacation is handled is very much a company-by-company thing.

      2. LJL*

        Unless, however, their PTO is use-it-or-lose it with no carryover that renews July 1. I’ve heard of systems set up this way.

    4. MashaKasha*

      Yes. Sounds like their system is set up to automatically deny a vacation request if there’s no accrued PTO at the time when request is submitted, even if there will be enough PTO days to take the vacation at the time that’s being requested. And further it is also set up to auto deny a vacation request if there isn’t a 2 weeks notice. IOW their empoyers get several weeks PTO on July 1, but cannot use it until July 15. You have vacation time on paper, but you don’t in reality. I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous.

      And yes, the boss should’ve either made it happen, or not made the verbal promise in the first place. I’ve been in situations where I had no vacation and was still able to work it out to borrow vacation time from a year ahead and go. It can be done. That the boss promised him it would be done, tells me it could be done at their company too. I’m not in favor of forging medical notes of course, but OP’s boyfriend’s employer doesn’t look well here either.

    5. Prismatic Professional*

      Yes! OP please make sure to take care of yourself. Do things that fill your life with joy, happiness, relaxation, and any other positive emotions you can think of! It is very stressful to be the partner of someone who is really angry.

  5. K.J.*


    They deny him time off. And that exact time is when he suddenly needs an intense medical procedure? That is SUPER obvious. Dude, get a clue.

      1. Anna*

        It was a verbal approval, but I think the most important point here is that when things went weird with the request, it didn’t occur to him to approach his manager and tell them the situation. His first plan of action was to come up with a scheme to still be able to go on his trip. If I had purchased tickets based on a verbal approval, and then that time was denied, you bet I would talk to my manager about it. I wouldn’t go through the effort of forging a note from a doctor.

      2. fposte*

        I think K.J. was noting not that the boyfriend was solely blameful but that his charade was pretty ludicrously transparent.

        However, what you’re saying might be relevant even to that–he might have been so mad that he really didn’t care how clear it was. Unfortunately, that’s a hot-headed move that’ll bite you in the butt.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yes, many employers watch for this. A vacation request gets denied and all of the sudden there is a medical issue. Most employers that I have worked for would find that suspicious and would request documentation. Going forward, I think that BF would be wise to be aware that probably an employer would question two requests, with different reasons, that are back-to-back for the same period of time off. Let’s say BF told them his grandmother died and now he needed the same time period off, I would say be prepared to produce an obituary. Of course, not all employers act this way. But there are enough of them out there that it that one should be aware and know the company you work for.

          1. fposte*

            Though he’s going to have a bigger problem with either the gap in his resume or the former employer who says “We let him go for falsifying a doctor’s note when he was really on vacation.”

      3. RG*

        It is, but that’s not K.J.’s point. K.J.’s point of that the first request didn’t include a medical reason. It got denied. And now the boyfriend just happens to have a medical procedure that covers those exact days? But he didn’t see the need to mention those beforehand? And I know that you could argue that is none of their business, but if he needed the time for a medical procedure than why not immediately go talk to the manager? It’s just not the brightest plan.

        1. Bostonian*

          I wonder if all of his time off is in one PTO bucket, too, or if he switched from asking for vacation days to needing sick or personal days, or if he was claiming he was going to use vacation for a medical procedure or something. That would be really, really transparent to the employer.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          If he had an actual medical procedure then he would have been able to produce the documentation. Sure, he has the right to not discuss his medical issues and he can chose not to. But that comes at a price.
          I went home sick from work one day (serious ear infection) and as I left I was informed I needed a doctor’s note to return. That note cost me $113 plus I lost two day’s pay. I am not saying it’s fair or reasonable. But this sort of thing can be expected, as it happens often.

          1. Jeanne*

            That is awful. All that money just for an ear infection. We have such an awful system. You didn’t get paid sick time or obviously decent health insurance. But you had to do all that to keep your job.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            That is so ridiculous. I can see that if an employee has a habit of being unreliable and out sick for what seems like non-ailments, but not an across the board policy. And when someone has an ear infection, you can tell the feel miserable. (That said . . . I’m glad you saw a doctor! Ear infections can be really serious)

            1. Honeybee*

              An ear infection is one of those things you really should go to the doctor for. I had an ear infection as an adult about 6 years ago, and I can still remember that piercing pain in my ear. Many ear infections (including the one I had) are bacterial, and you can get prescribed a strong antibiotic for it to kill it. But, you have to get it early – because it can spread! My bacterial ear infection spread into my throat and my eye before I got the medication to kill it all, and then I needed to take a stronger antibiotic. So I had an ear infection, pink eye, and a sore throat at the same time. Yay.

      4. Jake*

        To use a line from my (everybody’s?) childhood, two wrongs don’t make a right.

        Both sides did something that shows a complete lack of integrity, and being the victim of somebody’s lack of integrity gives you absolutely no justification to lie and forge a medical document, which is not only poor form, but just straight up illegal.

        1. neverjaunty*

          How did “both sides” show a lack of integrity? All OP’s boyfriend got from the boss was a verbal confirmation that it would be OK with the manager if he took those days off – BUT there was also an established leave procedure, apparently, requiring two weeks’ lead time, which Boyfriend was well aware of (and Boyfriend apparently had used up all his previous leave, so didn’t have time in the bank available).

          That is, it really sounds like Boyfriend said “hey, I’m planning to ask for this time period off” and his manager said “sure, go ahead and put in for that, it won’t be a problem on my end.”

          1. Just another techie*

            It might not but unethical, but the leave procedures are stupid and morale-killing. As others have pointed out, the procedures, if we’ve understood them correctly, means no one can ever take vacation between July 1 and July 15.

            1. neverjaunty*

              No, it means that people who have no leave available as of June 30 can’t take vacation between July 1 and July 15.

              But even if there is a glitch in the system – an effective blackout date for two weeks for people out of PTO – that’s something that Boyfriend could and should have addressed with his manager or HR. Nothing in OP’s letter suggests he did, and assuming he did because ‘why wouldn’t he’ is making some serious assumptions.

              1. Just another techie*

                I never assumed he did. In fact, I assumed he didn’t, because he knew about the effective blackout. I’m not saying the guy was in the right. I’m saying that in addition to him being very in the wrong, it’s also stupid and short sighted of the business to have an effective blackout for no reason other than technical incompetence or other pointy-haired reasons.

              2. amaranth16*

                If vacation days don’t carry over, which is common at many companies, then it would indeed mean that no one at all can take vacation from July 1-July 15.

                But absolutely, he should’ve gone to his manager first instead of lying about it. That is a baffling response to a poorly designed system.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  True, but we don’t know that’s what happened. He could have just used all of his days and wouldn’t have any new accrued yet. That happens with people at my office all the time. Not lying about medical procedures–using all your time up.

                2. Oryx*

                  Not necessarily. ExJob had this system and you could take vacation from July 1 – July 15, you just go into the negative on your PTO.

  6. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    Oh dear. It sounds like the problem had several points where things could have gone better–initially, discussion with the manager, opting not to forge the note, owning up to it after they asked, etc–but it seems the boyfriend here has gone straight to the nuclear option of discussing with a lawyer and so on. I just…wow. I’m very impressed by the level of dedication to a vacation.

    1. Doodle*


      That’s what made me think he panicked — “I can’t get out of this ahhhhh” instead of “These are sunk costs, but I don’t want to lose my job. I need to look for other options.”

    2. puddin*

      Why would you even schedule and book flights for a vacation during a time when you, per policy, do not have any time off? Even if he asked, got the verbal, and then booked he could have been much more diligent about getting the written approval first.

      Sounds like he was just trying to bend the universe to his will, the universe denied him (and no one should be surprised that it did in this instance) and now needs to save face.

      All he had to do was explain he got verbal permission, booked a flight already, admit he should have waited to the full written approval, fall on his sword every so slightly, and odds are he would still have a job.

      I hope he is a better boyfriend than employee.

      1. Anonsie*

        I’ve worked plenty of jobs where a written approval is just not a thing anyone would do, it’s all always verbal.

        1. puddin*

          Then that would make sense to move forward. In an environment where written approvals are required, then its a only a maybe till you have the paperwork.

          1. Zillah*

            But again, it depends on the environment. There are workplaces where a verbal okay is permission and written approval is a formality – my first job was like that. I don’t know if that’s the case where the OP’s boyfriend works – and regardless, he acted very poorly – but however much we can say “it’s only a maybe until you have the paperwork,” we need to acknowledge that not all workplaces function that way.

    3. OP HERE*

      It was for business unrelated to his job. He owns land there and the trip was coordinated between his lawyer, business manager, and a number of contractors. Changing the dates would have likely been a logistical nightmare.

  7. PEBCAK*

    I know this isn’t a relationship advice blog, but I’d be thinking long and hard about calling someone with these types of integrity issues my “boyfriend.”

      1. Lanya*

        I hear what you’re saying, but -respectfully- this isn’t a relationship advice blog. Obviously the OP knows the boyfriend did something pretty heinous, but none of us is in that relationship. It’s between the two of them. I trust that OP is wise enough to make judgments in that arena without all of us piling on.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          I agree. I personally would not want to be in a relationship with someone who showed this kind of qualities, but we don’t know the OP, and she didn’t ask for relationship advice.

    1. Mike C.*

      This is a pretty terrible thing to say, actually. I note you don’t mention anything about the integrity of the boss who verbally approves vacation time then doesn’t do anything when it’s later revoked.

      1. KT*

        But we dont know that. What we know from the OP is that when he was denied, he made up this faux medical emergency.

        1. Anna*

          Agreed. There’s a HUGE chunk missing. That chunk is where the boyfriend approached his manager when the time was denied and the manager told him too bad. I get the feeling that didn’t happen or it would have been mentioned.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes — and what was mentioned was, ” I don’t think the job was aware he was traveling out of the country.” That indicates to me that the boyfriend didn’t even try to resolve it; he just went straight to the forged note.

            1. BRR*

              This is why I have adopted your talk about things directly advice*. It doesn’t always work but it has a much higher success rate than avoidance.

              *Exceptions exist

        2. Ezri*

          Yes, this. If the boss did what Mike C describes, then he’s guilty of jerking around an employee over their PTO, which is Not Cool. But in the letter there’s a huge gap between the verbal approval and the meeting with HR where the boss isn’t mentioned at all.

          I think most people are fixating on OP’s boyfriend’s actions because they were actually part of the letter, while the boss’ actions after the verbal approval are speculation.

          1. Jeanne*

            Plus, she’s asking for advice for her boyfriend. That’s the big focus. I suspect there’s something wrong at the employer too but we don’t know they’ll ever read this.

      2. Anony-moose*

        Is it? The OP doesn’t say how serious the relationship is, but if they’re thinking of committing their life to this person, that’s a big integrity issue. Lying and then becoming defensive (and somewhat nuclear) when caught would be a big issue for me. I can love you, but if you’re a liar, it’s just not going to work out.

        1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

          Yeah, exactly. It isn’t even the initial lie (“medical procedure”), it’s the doubling down on the process–forging doctors notes, involving lawyers, and putting himself in the victim seat. All of that is far, far more concerning–not the screw-up but the response.

          1. AnonAnalyst*

            This is my feeling on it as well. The initial lie might concern me a little, depending on the context, but it on its own probably wouldn’t make me think “run for the hills.” But the subsequent response might. I mean, I don’t want to minimize the guy’s frustration over potentially losing his money and vacation, because I get that that sucks. But if I’m thinking longer-term, there are a whole lot more emotionally charged issues that will probably come up over the course of a relationship, and so I think I would be pretty concerned as to how he would handle those in light of his response to this.

          2. Matt F*

            The lawyer threat could have worked if he stuck to it (“of course they’re not going to confirm that I’m a patient, they’re prohibited from doing so by HIPAA. Enjoy my lawyer.”). Of course, his job would still be forfeit in the medium to long term, but that would at least buy him some time.

            1. Honeybee*


              1) The employer is likely not a covered entity under HIPAA, so the OP’s boyfriend couldn’t sue his employer – he could only theoretically sue the doctor’s office.
              2) Disclosing that a person is a patient is actually not a violation of HIPAA. You can give basic information about a patient who is asked for by name, including their room number at a hospital. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s potentially damaging or identifying medical information that you can’t disclose – but simply saying whether or not someone is your patient is not a HIPAA violation in and of itself.
              3) The most important part, though, is that a person who is not your patient is absolutely not covered by HIPAA. So a doctor is not violating HIPAA if he says he never treated John Smith – John Smith is not a patient at the covered entity. There’s no protected health information to even disclose!

        2. Mike C.*

          Just because someone forges a medical note for a vacation that was approved of only to be yanked away after non-refundable costs were incurred doesn’t mean that they’re also the type of person to open an account on Ashley Madison.

          Work life can be and often is separate from personal life.

          1. SystemsLady*

            But if they’re the type to subsequently contact a lawyer because their lie was found out…

              1. RVA Cat*

                Yes. Even if he’s not inclined to cheat in their relationship, this sort of behavior is a red flag that he may lie on, say, their joint tax return or mortgage application and get the OP in trouble with him.

                1. Zillah*

                  I’m not sure I see that progression. It certainly could happen, but a red flag? By that logic, feigning a death in the family to get an extension on a paper in college is a red flag for health care fraud or plagiarism is a red flag for infidelity.

                  It’s not that what he did – or my examples! – aren’t wrong. They absolutely are. But I don’t see that progression being as likely as you seem to.

                2. JB (not in Houston)*

                  @Zillah Sure, maybe, but creating a fake obituary and death certificate, doing something equally dishonest to cover up that you’ve lied to avoid getting out of trouble? It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’d cheat. But it is a red flag because you have evidence that when they make mistakes, they don’t own up to them, and then instead go to great dishonest lengths to avoid consequences.

                  Maybe this was a one-time lapse of judgment in an otherwise full of integrity person. But that’s not something I’d just blow off because even if it doesn’t result in infidelity or criminal activity, there are all kinds of ways that kind of reaction can cause you big problems in your relationship.

                  I just wouldn’t want to be in relationship with someone who does something stupid or wrong and then their first reaction to getting caught is to create an even bigger lie, and then when that goes wrong, they go on the defensive and make themselves into the victim. That’s a giant waving red flag of something, and I wouldn’t want any part of it.

                  That said, as I said above, there are people who are totally fine with that kind of thing, and it’s their life and their choice as to who to be with.

                3. Zillah*

                  @ JB – But I’m not defending what he did; it was really, really stupid. My point isn’t that I’m defending his actions – it’s that the progression people are talking about (lying about doctor’s note = red flag for infidelity, lying on their tax return/mortgage, etc) seems overly alarmist to me.

                  (I also don’t see “an even bigger lie” here – I see the lie about the medical procedure with a fake doctor’s note, and then him digging his heels in and challenging how his workplace found out about it. It’s beyond stupid, of course – but I don’t see the “bigger lie.”)

                4. JB (not in Houston)*

                  @ Zillah The first lie was the lie about the procedure. The second, bigger lie was forging a doctor’s note. You may see this as the continuation of one lie. I see the second as a separate act of dishonesty that eclipsed the first in seriousness.

                  I totally agree that you can’t say that if he’d do this, then he will -definitely- cheat on the OP or on his taxes. But I think people’s point is that someone who will lie and then go to great lengths to cover up the lie (and then get defensive when called on it) is probably not going to only lie about this one thing–it is an indication that he maybe thinks he’s entitled to get what he wants when he wants it and to lie and lie to cover it up. Maybe that won’t be infidelity or a crime. Probably it won’t. Maybe it will. The point is that you don’t know. How can you tell where he’d draw the line, if there’s something he thought we was entitled to?

                  And I could be reading the comments wrong, that’s just how I take it.

                5. JB (not in Houston)*

                  @ zillah
                  Also, maybe I just am using a different definition of the term “red flag,” which I see as just meaning a warning sign, something you should pay attention to, not that this thing is definitely happening.

            1. Mike C.*

              I find this to be the lest offensive thing in the letter. They contacted a lawyer? That’s it? They just talked to someone? Nothing more? I have several friends who are lawyers, all I would have to do is text one and then I too have committed the sin of “contacting a lawyer”. There are forums I post on with lawyers and prosecutors, responding to them is contact as well.

              Simply trying to understand the law is not a bad thing, regardless of who much you’ve screwed up at work.

              1. LabTech*

                Plus it sounds like he’s contacting a lawyer, in part, because they’re refusing to allow the time he actually worked there to go towards his certification. There could have been stipulations on that time by the accrediting agency for that certification (such as getting fired for cause would invalidate it), but failing that, I’d say the employer is in the wrong to deny him the hours he actually worked.

                1. Hiring Mgr*

                  This is the part I don’t understand… How could the employer deny that the BF worked the hours if he clearly did? I don’t know anything about certifications so maybe this is an obvious question..

              2. OP HERE !!!!*

                I’m from a fmaily of lawyers, so I told him to just talk to his lawyer for advice. It wasn’t necessarily going on an aggressive attack towards his employer. But I know going the lawyer route often gets a bad rep ….. but to me it’s the norm

          2. fposte*

            I don’t think we know it was yanked away, though. We know that the request failed to clear an automatic approval hurdle; it’s not even clear a human sees that or that if they do the manager was involved.

            To me this is kind of like forging a prescription because the pharmacy said it’s too soon for a refill, before you even check to see if they could advance you any meds, when a refill could be filed, and whether your doctor could call something else in.

            1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

              I think this is the best non-work analogy for this letter. It’s the leap to fraud that’s concerning, not the underlying facts.

          3. Anony-moose*

            I think you’ve really dug into taking the side of the boyfriend, and are only seeing things in black and white. I’m saying that the level of lying that this man engaged in is a big red flag, and if it were a pattern, I’d be rethinking if I could spend my life with them. It’s not about the vacation days at all. It’s about the lying.

          4. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I have to say, if I knew that my significant other was willing to deliberately lie in such an elaborate way (forging a note) and that reacted like this when caught, it would absolutely make me wonder what kind of ethics and integrity he would bring to dealings with me, especially when we had challenging stuff to work through.

            The OP knows the guy best, of course, but I can’t agree that there’s no connection in general.

            1. Dutch Thunder*

              The hotheadedness is what gets me.

              Holiday request denied by a machine? Anger. Not confusion, or “I’m sure we can fix this, let me talk to a human.”

              Found out and given a chance to grovel? Anger. Lawyers. “You can’t do this!”

              I’d have some doubts about the relationship as a whole too.

              1. BRR*

                Yeah I’m not crazy about the dig your heals in when you’re wrong trait.

                I’m also not sure he was given a chance to grovel. It very well might have been but it also might have been prove this note or you’re fired (also not crazy about the company calling him when he was supposed to be having a medical procedure done either).

              2. Shannon*

                This may fall into the category of “semantics” but, anger is a perfectly normal reaction when things don’t go our way. How we react to that anger and determining when an angry response is appropriate is what separates us from toddlers.

                If I were in a position where vacation I had cleared with my boss was denied by an automated process, yes, I would be angry. However, I would not express that anger because it is not appropriate at that time.

                And, I would consider it a huge red flag in a personal relationship. While we have to remember that we are hearing about this incident third hand and I suspect that there are missing parts, over all, the way we are told that this went down does not speak very well of the boyfriend’s character.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  Yeah, I think the word ‘anger’ means different but similar emotions to different people. I’d definitely have been what I consider angry–for me. But it would have been more like a feeling of unfairness + resentment. I think Dutch Thunder is maybe referring to a stronger, more visceral reaction. I know someone who gets this kind of angry over things that, to most people I know, would only evoke a feeling of slight irritation. The kind of thing where feeling something in that family of feeling types would be justified, but the degree/proportion seems like overkill.

                  But I could be totally wrong.

              3. Zillah*

                Holiday request denied by a machine? Anger. Not confusion, or “I’m sure we can fix this, let me talk to a human.”

                If it was me, I’d be angry. I’d probably take a few minutes to cool down and possibly text a friend to vent/worry a little before approaching my boss, and I certainly wouldn’t concoct an elaborate lie involving a medical procedure, but I think that it’s quite normal to respond to setbacks with anger rather than levelheaded confusion/confidence.

                The boyfriend behaved poorly – but I don’t think it was poor behavior because he got angry. What makes it poor behavior for me is that wasn’t able to moderate his initial reaction into a more productive response.

          5. LBK*

            I’m with you that people’s personal and professional ethics can be very different – particularly when it comes to honesty, because I think honesty is much more heavily tied to emotional damage in your personal life. You feel worse about lying to your SO than you do to your manager because beyond the practical impact of the lie, you care more about potentially hurting your SO than you do about your manager.

            However, the lying isn’t actually the biggest red flag to me – it’s the jump to the worst conclusion. It’s assuming that the request was denied to screw the boyfriend over, not because it was a system restriction or because someone made an error or the manager (who is a human and prone to human mistakes) just plain forgot about their conversation from months earlier and the whole thing could’ve been solved with a 10-second discussion.

            The logic that a) anything that goes wrong must have been done for intentional, nefarious purposes and b) that therefore any reactions to that are wholly justified is really scary to me and I’d have a hard time believing it wouldn’t bleed over into personal life.

            1. Zillah*

              However, the lying isn’t actually the biggest red flag to me – it’s the jump to the worst conclusion. It’s assuming that the request was denied to screw the boyfriend over, not because it was a system restriction or because someone made an error or the manager (who is a human and prone to human mistakes) just plain forgot about their conversation from months earlier and the whole thing could’ve been solved with a 10-second discussion.

              I haven’t been able to articulate what my biggest issue with the whole thing was, because I knew it wasn’t the anger or the lying, but you hit the nail on the head. Yes. And I have a much easier time believing that that could carry over to other aspects of his life than the progression from this lie to infidelity.

          6. Log Lady*

            Here’s the thing though, even though this might not mean they’ll cheat on you, this does mean they’ll willing to screw lots of things up in the future when they’re caught in something like this in the future. It can cause a whole lot of heart ache for you if you’re married to them and they start throwing around lawyers over a lie they got caught in like a school boy.

            1. Shannon*

              I agree. The “forge a doctor’s note” thing doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that it was his first response to that problem. It’s like finding a roach in the pantry and burning the house down instead of cleaning the pantry and calling an exterminator. It makes me wonder about his conflict resolution skills in other aspects of his life.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                Oh, no, I’m totally burning the house down over that. I’d at least feel like it, anyway. :)

          7. Observer*

            Forging a medical note really is a big deal. For one thing, this is not something you do easily in a couple of minutes on impulse. It’s also something that involves another party (ie the doctor’s office) without their knowledge and consent. Lastly, he clearly thought this through. Yes, he was mistaken in how HPAA works, but he definitely thought about it.

            The fact that he went to his lawyer makes it worse simply because it indicates that he totally doesn’t get it. It’s like the person from yesterday who said things she shouldn’t then got on her high horse because the conversation was supposed to be secret.

          8. De (Germany)*

            Well, I personally don’t think forging a doctor’s note like that is okay, and I would break up with someone over that.

        3. Blue Anne*

          Plus… this may be showing how little of a romantic I am, but if I was thinking of committing my life to this person, this whole ordeal would be a big red flag for our financial stability. If this was his first reaction, what are the odds something similar will happen again, maybe multiple times, over his working life?

          I have a good career of my own, but even so, if my husband was fired for a reason like this he would be in hot water with me as well as his references.

        4. Allison*

          Agreed. Between the massive Ashley Madison leak and some stuff going on in my personal life, I’d be very hesitant to get into a committed relationship with someone who pulls garbage like this at work. It’s true he did it at work, but I’d wonder if he’s going to resort to other unethical behaviors when he doesn’t get what he wants.

        5. amaranth16*

          I don’t disagree with you, but I think it is REALLY inappropriate for us to give the OP unsolicited relationship advice.

      3. Ife*

        IF the boss verbally approved the vacation then refused to defend it, then yes, the boss did something crappy, but based on that one datapoint I don’t think we can conclude the boss is a crappy person, let alone question his integrity.

        The way the boyfriend reacted at every stage raises major red flags about his integrity because of how out-of-proportion those reactions are, and how many chances he had to come clean. Vacation request is denied? Lie, and forge a doctor’s note when challenged. Company is skeptical and gives him a chance to come clean? Double-down in the lie. Company fires him? Call a lawyer.

        There were lots of opportunities for the boyfriend to de-escalate the situation, but he went in the opposite direction. That says a lot about how he’s likely to handle other situations that don’t go the way he wants them to.

        1. Green*

          Add in: “Lawyer tells him to try to file for unemployment and move on? Start making crazy HIPAA allegations.”

      4. neverjaunty*

        No, it’s a very insightful thing to say (and OP isn’t working for, much less dating, her boyfriend’s former boss). Boyfriend made some very poor decisions to start with – booking a nonrefundable vacation when he didn’t have the PTO for it, relying on a verbal OK when he knew he still had to go through a process requiring two weeks’ notice, failing to consult with the boss to try and straighten things out. Then he went to the bizarre and dishonest length of forging a doctor’s note and refusing to take the opportunity to admit it when it was 100% obvious that the jig was up. THEN he doubles down by trying to turn this into a lawsuit, when even his own lawyer is telling him to let it go.

        This is, to put it mildly, not the personality type that makes for a calm, rational, gaslighting-free relationship.

    2. BRR*

      That might be a bit of a stretch. It wasn’t the best judgement but all we know is one incident and wanting to take time off that was approved isn’t the worst possible trait (although he handled it poorly). The LW added information to get “I told you so” credit which isn’t exactly a great quality either.

      1. Ellen*

        I have some sympathy on the “I told you so” credit issue, actually, though I often find those kinds of things obnoxious. I think Alison (and commenters) are pretty good at realizing that the OP is the only one who’s asking for advice on this blog, so they have to advise the OP. Without her mention of her (lack of) support here, I could see this turning into a big lecture to her about how this move is unethical, stupid, etcetcetc. Now we all know that she thought this was an awful plan and can move beyond trying to get it through her head that it was a terrible plan.

      2. hbc*

        I think going off on a dumb idea is one thing, and going off on a dumb idea against the advice of people you love and trust is a different thing. The fact that someone outlined it to him and he still charged on is not a good sign.

    3. CanoeSeeMe*

      This was my first thought after reading the letter. If they’ll do it with you, they’ll do it to you, and all that.

    4. Ad Astra*

      I admit this guy doesn’t sound like a great choice of boyfriend, but the only thing we know about him is that he screwed up. This might be the worst thing he’s ever done. Would you look very dateable if the only information available was the story of the worst thing you’ve ever done? Some people really might, but I’m not sure I would.

      1. PEBCAK*

        Sure, but I didn’t say “DTMFA,” I said, “think long and hard.”

        For me, it’s the insistence that none of this is his fault that seems really concerning, more so than the initial lie.

      2. Zillah*

        Seriously. While I agree that this doesn’t show great judgment, I do think it’s a bit of a stretch to extrapolate the incident to his personality as a whole. People sometimes do stupid things when they panic. It can certainly be indicative of a larger issue with honesty and judgment, but I don’t think that who you are at work is always directly reflected by who you are in your personal life.

    5. Samantha*

      Wow. This poor guy just got fired and you want him to lose his boyfriend/girlfriend? Nice. :/

      Look, he made a mistake. We’ve established he shouldn’t have lied to his boss, but now this is starting to feel like a pile-on.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Well, he got himself fired. And they’re looking at it from the perspective of what they think is best for the OP, not from the employee. I’m not saying it’s the case here, but *if* the boyfriend is bad news, the OP shouldn’t have to stay with him just because he was fired.

  8. Judy*

    His PTO time didn’t renew until July 1st, so he knew the request would be denied if he submitted the official request for time off before that date. He submitted a time off form on July 2nd for time off starting on July 9th.

    I’m confused about this one. I’ve certainly been approved for a December 20 – January 2nd vacation request when I would receive a new vacation allotment on January 1.

    1. Helka*

      This is exactly why my job doesn’t look at current balance when approving vacation time — all approvals are simply given with the caveat of “assuming you have the time off available at that date.”

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yeah, I’ve never heard of a restriction like this. Reasonable employers and managers would understand that the PTO would renew in time for the requested time off.

    3. Ezri*

      It sounds like their PTO system is at least partially automated – it is possible that it auto-rejects requests made that exceed the employee’s current vacation allotment and requests made less than two weeks in advance. That logic is definitely not ideal in situations like this, though, if it isn’t able to figure out the employee’s PTO allotment for a future date.

      1. dancer*

        Sure, but there must be some sort of manual override for it… It would suck if your life was controlled by some faulty computer program :P

        1. Ezri*

          They might not, if they never encountered a need for one. Or if in practice someone who received an automated rejection in error would talk to a real person to resolve it.

          I’m not saying my hypothetical system is a good one, just that it’s possible to create. :)

    4. Mike C.*

      Yeah, it’s incredibly dumb. Even if it’s automated, it can calculate how much time you’ll have by the time the vacation is taken. It’s simple math, the kind of thing computers are good at.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Right, as others have said below, this makes no sense. This can’t be the only time that somebody has wanted to put in for leave for PTO they WILL have at the time of the vacation, but don’t have at the time of the request – and if it is and the system is stupid, why didn’t Boyfriend ask HR or his manager to help intervene? Something doesn’t add up.

      2. BeenThere*

        Depends on who designed and implemented the system, you’d be surprised how many half finished programs are out there that cause these exact type of problems.

    5. Cat*

      I think there’s something else going on here. Either the company’s system has an obvious flaw that people are used to circumventing informally and the boyfriend wasn’t given the details of that or the boyfriend is bending the truth in his communications to the OP in order to look more sympathetic.

      1. fposte*

        I was also thinking that boyfriend might have mistakenly assumed he couldn’t request vacation prior to earning it.

        1. Ezri*

          Hadn’t he worked there for three years, though? It says he’d lose three years of experience towards his certification, which I assumed would all be at this one company. I’ll admit I’m not sure how those programs work.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I wasn’t thinking about that part. I still suppose it’s possible if he hadn’t requested early in the year before, but it does make it less likely.

            1. Cat*

              It might not be that unlikely though – it sounds like it would only be an issue if you were requesting vacation between July 1 and July 14. Any other time the two weeks notice issue wouldn’t come into play.

      2. Three Thousand*

        Yeah, those little details really aren’t adding up at all. Either the boyfriend has a serious problem approaching people with obvious and easily resolved questions or there’s something else happening that he’s invented a very thin cover story for.

  9. Ann O'Nemity*

    Ha! Once I caught a student trying to use a fake doctor’s note after missing the midterm exam. And it was the lamest forgery attempt I’ve ever seen. It was formatted like a business letter, went into all sorts of unnecessary details, and used an obviously made up name and street address. A quick google search revealed what I already knew – the doctor did not exist. When confronted, the student just kept insisting it was real. We eventually went to a disciplinary hearing, where the student was given an F for the course and was placed on academic probation for his dishonorable behavior.

    TL;DR Faking a doctor’s note and then trying to fight it makes everything worse than it already is.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Right? If it’s one thing that my legal career has taught me (similar to what I suspect a teaching job would teach one) is the large number of people who will lie because it’s what will allow them to feel like they are winning in the moment, even thought it’s super obvious to everyone else that they will definitely be caught.

    1. Sandra Dee*

      Or the opposite extreem, prof requested proof that grandmother was in ICU out of state. Um, yeah, no! Took it to the dean, dean excused everything, prof still failed my son in that class, even after proof that she passed away and a copy of the obituary.

      1. simonthegrey*

        Ouch. In general, if a student has a medical or family emergency, I let it go even without requiring an obit or doctor note…unless I notice a pattern, in which case I might.

      2. davey1983*

        If the professor failed your son for no reason, then you can appeal the grade.

        However, if a student was only going to be gone for a day or two, I wouldn’t require anything. If a student was going to be gone a week or more, then yes, I would also require some sort of documentation.

  10. dancer*

    I’m kind of confused about this leave policy. If PTO rolls over in July, and you can’t book time off for later in July until the first of July, doesn’t this mean you can’t vacation between the 1st and the 14th of July?

    If I’m not misunderstanding, that seems like a silly policy…

    1. SystemsLady*

      I wonder if the OP’s boyfriend simply misunderstood and didn’t even try to request the PTO before the first of July.

      1. Kelly L.*

        That could be. It would make more sense that way, on the employer’s end.

        I wonder if the boyfriend just plain forgot to request it till the last minute and is spinning an excuse to the LW, as well as having spun one to the employer.

    2. AMT*

      Right, did he know for sure that his vacation request would have been denied if he’d submitted it before he officially earned it? At every office I’ve worked in, if you WILL have earned the vacation days by the time you take your vacation, it’s okay to schedule it as far in advance as you’d like. Any other policy would force employees to wait until the last minute to book flights or (as OP’s boyfriend thought was the case) prohibit them from booking vacations within 2 weeks of PTO rollover if they don’t have saved vacation days.

      1. knitchic79*

        In our system you need to have to have the hours availible to request your time off as paid in the program. But, you can request the time off as unpaid and have the leave applied once it hits your account.

  11. Apollo Warbucks*

    Wow that’s some terrible judgement.

    Practically all I can suggest is the OPs boyfriend offers a sincere and genuine apology and tries to get the hours certified and signed off, but if the certification requires any sort of ethics or integrity he may well be on to a loser there.

  12. Ezri*

    Oh my. I can understand your boyfriend’s frustration (I’m sure those travel costs were substantial), but he basically lied to his employer to get a week off. As Alison said, sometimes people make bad judgment calls, but his priority right now needs to be not making this situation any worse.

    I guess I’d ask him what he expects to get from the company if he goes after them. He’s not going to get his job back, and I highly doubt a lawsuit would do anything but lose him money. At this point there’s a tiny shred of hope that the job would allow his certification hours to count. It’s possible that if he goes back to the company, apologizes and expresses his mortification for his actions, that they will allow it. I’m not sure that they have to in a case like this, though.

    I’m with the OP – he needs to chalk this one up to a bad call learning experience and wash his hands of the whole situation. There’s nothing to gain from picking a fight.

  13. Mike C.*

    What in the heck does this employer expect when the boss verbally confirmed vacation time then it was denied later after plans had been made?

    Employer forced the employee into a corner and left him with no good options. Both parties did stuff that was obviously wrong, but the employer has way more agency here.

    1. Mike C.*

      Furthermore, that employer better certify the time because the time was done, regardless of a flight to Cuba. You don’t just erase three years over something stupid like this.

      1. KarenT*

        Yes, I agree. If the employer refuses to verify time that he did in fact complete, that would be highly unethical on their part.

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        I think the boyfriend could have a problem here, if the records he kept need to be verified, how do you trust someone who hass been known to forge records and documents?

        I’m not saying I wouldn’t sign it off personally, but it would need some serious thought. My professional accreditation is a big deal to me I worked hard for it and without it would struggle to work in the same way I do now, so I’d be very very careful about hitching myself to that particular wagon.

        1. KarenT*

          This is also true. I think it would depend on the certification and what the employer needs to do. We have a lot of people working on their PMP certification, and that would be hard to fake for that because essentially your employer is verifying whether or not you managed a project for a certain period of time.

      3. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        Depends upon the certifications. Mine have clauses that state I will not engage in unethical behavior. One could argue that this incident blocks his qualification despite fulfilling a time requirement – but only if his cert includes this type of clause.

    2. Colette*

      It’s not clear the manager ever knew exactly what days he wanted off (mid-July does not equal July 9 in my mind), nor that the boyfriend ever mentioned that he had made plans and booked tickets. If the boyfriend was clear on the dates and the manager then declined the request, that would have been a good time to have a discussion, and it’s not clear that that happened. (If the manager still says no, then the boyfriend needs to decide whether to quit or cancel his trip.)

      Forging a doctor’s note is not acceptable. It’s dishonest, cowardly, and it makes the employer less sympathetic to people who actually need medical leave.

      1. Mike C.*

        I never said forgery was acceptable, but the discussion was had and verbal approval was given. It doesn’t matter if the OP specified the exact days because it was most likely discussed anyway, and if it wasn’t then it’s still on the manager to ask before saying yes. Because that’s their job as a manager.

        The kind of workplace that reneges on verbal agreements with employees is a shitty place to work, and shouldn’t be surprised or upset when things like this happen.

        1. Colette*

          If the boyfriend said something like “I’m thinking about taking a few days off in mid-July” and the manager said “sounds good”, they boyfriend could legitimately think he could take July 9-16 off, and the manager could legitimately be thinking she’d get more information when the boyfriend actually decided what days he wanted off. I’m not sure that kind of conversation would prompt a manager to say “exactly what days?”

          IMO, it’s in the best interests of the person who wants the time off to be clear on the dates since they have the most to lose if there’s a miscommunication.

          If the boyfriend was clear on the dates and the manager clearly approved them, then she shouldn’t have denied the request. (Did she deny the request? Was it a person or the system who declined? We don’t know.)

          You seem to be looking at this as “the company deserves it”, but really, it’s the boyfriend who lost his job, and I fully agree he should have been fired. Even if this was a deliberate, hostile act on the manager’s part (as opposed to a communication problem, which I think is far more likely), forging documents and lying about medical leave is wrong. He could have quit if they were unable to work out a way for him to take vacation, since he clearly was willing to lose the job anyway.

          1. Mike C.*

            It doesn’t matter if the request may have been made in a suboptimal manner. If we’re going to live life to account for every last weird thing that could happen I would be requesting my assignments from my boss in writing, notarized and counter-signed by a witness. We can’t do that of course, I have to have some level of trust and understanding form the people I work with that they’re not going to screw me over just because they can. If they need more from me they can ask, and if not, then a yes means yes.

            I want to be clear here that I’m not denying the stupidity of the boyfriend’s actions. I’m only trying to point out that this whole thing is a cluster going all the way down, and that the employer was in a much better situation to fix it or avoid it all together.

            1. Colette*

              It’s not clear to me that the employer knew there was a problem that needed to be fixed, though. Was the request denied by the system? If so, the manager may not have even known the boyfriend put in the request and may have thought his plans changed.

              I agree that the manager likely had the most power to fix it, but it’s not clear that they even knew there was a problem.

              When I’m in a position of authority, one of the things that drives me nuts is people who present me with a solution without explaining what the problem is, and that’s kind of what this feels like. The boyfriend wanted days off, he wasn’t approved, so he went a different route without explaining what the issue was to the person who was able to fix it.

            2. myswtghst*

              I feel like it’s a pretty big leap from “you should CYA and ensure you have clear approval for your PTO before booking expensive, non-refundable travel” to “you should have gotten it notarized and counter-signed by a witness just in case some weird thing happens.”

              Ensuring your PTO request is approved prior to booking travel should be a pretty no-brainer move, and it has nothing to do with trusting your manager. I trust my manager completely, and she has gone to bat for me before, but I still make sure I have my PTO requests (and her approval) in writing and on our team calendar before I book travel, even if she verbally approved it, because I know sometimes things come up, and sometimes people forget.

              Without more information from the OP, it’s hard to say for sure, but the picture painted doesn’t make me think the manager gave explicit approval for the vacation and then yanked it. Even if both parties made bad assumptions (boyfriend assumed he was good to go, manager assumed a formal request was forthcoming), the onus is still on the boyfriend to confirm his time off before booking travel, because the boyfriend is the one taking all the risk.

        2. OfficePrincess*

          For all we know though, the conversation could have been “Boss, can I take some time off in mid-July?” “That should be ok, just put in a request for it”. I frequently have people asking about general PTO availability while they begin to formulate their plans. I can tell John that September looks pretty open and have Susie put a request in for a week the next day. Since John hasn’t submitted dates yet, Susie’s time is approved and if John comes back later wanting the same week, it’s too late and there’s nothing I can do. I don’t see that as renegging on any verbal agreement.

            1. OfficePrincess*

              But you’re presuming that OP’s BF had confirmed exact dates with the boss and had been given a 100% unequivocal yes which is also not in evidence here either. I don’t see how presenting another possible option is wrong.

              1. Mike C.*

                I presume this because that’s what any normal (and many abnormal!) human being would do! Why wouldn’t it have been mentioned? That makes no sense what so ever.

                If the OP comes back later and says I’m wrong then so be it, but if someone is told one thing, makes plans, then is told another thing that counters the first AND causes significant financial harm, the obvious, trivial response is “but there was a previous agreement on this”.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  I think the big assumption here–and I generally agree with you, Mike!–is that the boyfriend is telling the truth to the LW. We’re getting this secondhand. The more I read this thread, the more I wonder whether he messed up, forgetting or procrastinating the initial request.

                2. fposte*

                  @Kelly L.–that’s a really good point. I can actually see it either way–guy is too pissed off to ask and screws himself instead, and guy tells a version to his girlfriend that he thinks makes himself look better (possibly ill-judged there, BF).

            2. neverjaunty*

              Mike C., I deeply respect your comments here even when I don’t agree with them, and I find your strong advocacy of the workers’ side a great thing, but you’re being a little invested in one set of assumptions here that aren’t in OP’s letter. There are no “facts in evidence” that suggest Manager actually puts through the leave, or that Manager refused to give Boyfriend a written confirmation, or that Manager was in fact the one who denied the leave. OP says that Boyfriend had to put in an official request after getting verbal confirmation and that the request “was denied” – we don’t know by whom.

              So it’s possible that Manager told Boyfriend yeah, you can have the time off, and then laughingly denied it. It’s EQUALLY possible that – as happens in a lot of workplaces, though not perhaps yours – that getting PTO approved is not done through one’s immediate manager, and the reason for checking with the manager is to make sure if you get that time off, it won’t create problems for your manager or team. (“But we have the Teapot presentation this week!” “Sorry, HR already okayed it and I bought the tickets.”) It is also equally possible that the manager’s approval is necessary, but not SUFFICIENT to get approval for PTO; you won’t get it if the manager says no, but you may still not get it even if your manager approves.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                That third option is how it works in my office for leave over 3 days. Practically speaking, it’s never denied if your manager approves it, but in theory it could be because someone else also has to sign off on it.

            3. Aunt Vixen*

              This from the guy who says he’d be shocked if something the OP doesn’t say happened had not happened.

              97% of threads around here presume facts not in evidence, Mike. Surely you know that by now. :-}

          1. Bostonian*

            But in many offices or departments, especially smaller ones, the manager would mention to John that Susie’s put in for a week in September since she knows that John’s considering time off then. It’s not strictly necessary according to the rules, but given the complexities of arranging for travel and time off, a heads up would be polite and the kind of thing that makes a manager good to work for. John would then know not to agree to that week when he’s talking to family or pounce on a cheap airfare and figure that he can get the days officially approved later based on the verbal okay.

            1. OfficePrincess*

              We have a big yearly calendar posted on the wall though with everyone’s time off, so it’s easy to see what dates are taken. My main point was though, if you don’t have set dates confirmed through whatever policy your workplace has, you don’t know for sure that you’ll get it off.

      2. SystemsLady*

        At my company you don’t even ask your manager on the official side – first it goes through the PTO system/personnel, THEN it goes to your manager for approval (and usually you’ve talked it over before you sent it in, so if the PTO side’s OK, you will get a yes).

        I would think this is more common than not, and I feel like getting rejected at the first step before the request went to the manager might have been what happened.

        What the manager would’ve been going after here would be the OP’s boyfriend preferring to forge a note – then staying stubborn about the lie – over talking to them.

    3. NickelandDime*

      Yeah, that’s why I said, he was wrong for lying, but I’m not in love with what the employer did here, and I don’t like their leave policy either. I also think FIRING him for this was extreme.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I don’t think firing him for forging the note and then doubling down is extreme. Had he taken the week off and insisted that he could since he had verbal approval, I’d be more on the fence about it, but lying about a medical procedure is pretty major, and not owning up to it afterward makes it even worse.

        1. Doodle*

          Yeah, it’s not the taking the week off, it’s the lie and then the double down on the lie when offered a chance to confess.

        2. Jeanne*

          This is what I would have preferred. He should have said to them that he relied on the verbal approval, he made expensive plans, and he expected to be allowed to follow through. In some companies you could still be treated badly but it is honest.

          1. V.V.*

            Unfortunately I know companies that would tell you to stuff it – too bad.

            Since we are on the topic, I gotta ask, if a person get approval in advance (written and through the proper channels) for time off, plans and pays for a non – refundable vacation and the job comes back and says “sorry you can’t take that time after all if you want to continue working here,” does the person have a right to demand reimbursement of their tickets? Or are they just screwed?

            1. davey1983*

              Legally? Probably not. Ethically, yes, the company should pay for the amount the employee is out.

      2. fposte*

        I think firing seems like a pretty logical response here, tbh, regardless of what happened before.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t see how you can not fire someone who shows such a major lapse in integrity. You’re not going to be able to trust him to be truthful in other situations.

        1. NickelandDime*

          Even if for three years they did good work and you enjoyed them as an employee? What if everything was fine before this incident? And the verbal agreement his manager gave him prior to this?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            When I think of the (small number of) people who I’ve caught lying on the job, none of them was exactly a rock star. I’d had at least low-level, brewing concerns about all of them. I tend to think that’s usually the case, and it’s hard for me to picture a normally high performing employee doing this (in part because those people tend to communicate well).

            But yeah, I’d still be hard pressed to keep someone on after such a major, deliberate, and premeditated lie. What’s going to happen the next time a decision doesn’t go their way or there’s miscommunication that puts them in a bind? I’m never going to have peace of mind that I can take them at their word again.

            1. Colette*

              To me, it’s not just the lying (although that’s certainly enough to justify firing), it’s the adversarial/hostile relationship with management that led to the lying. I can’t think of a single person I’ve enjoyed working with who would do this. Every one of them would go to the manager, let them know it’s a problem and work out a solution.

              1. Helka*


                In certain very, very rare circumstances, I could see retaining someone who’d forged the note — principally, I’m thinking of a young worker who’s new to social norms, and who gets into the “busted” meeting and immediately grovels and makes it clear they understand exactly what they did wrong and give me a really genuine feeling that they are abashed and ashamed for having done something that awful. Then I could be willing to say “Okay, that was stupid and unethical, but I will give you one more chance. Show me you’ve learned from this.”

                But when his response to getting called out was to double down and get adversarial… nah, there’s not a snowball’s chance downstairs that he’s keeping the job.

            2. Anon for This*

              Ok, so quick question. If I’m taking off a couple of hours in the morning for a job interview, I usually tell my employer I have a doctor’s appointment or something (sometimes I’ll just say appointment, which is more truthful). Is this a major bad thing? I obviously can’t tell them where I’m going, and my job doesn’t make a big deal of it (we can just say we’re going to be in late or something if we are waiting for a plumber, or have a doctor’s appointment, or ended up working late the night before. So they don’t nickel and dime us on our hours). Is this a major integrity thing I’m failing?

              1. Ann O'Nemity*

                I agree with Apollo, but think you should take care in picking your excuse so you don’t get caught in a lie.

                1. Jeanne*

                  Yes. Stick with vague excuses for interviews. “I was up all night being sick” and most people will fill in the details in their heads. No more to say.

            3. A Kate*

              The fact that the employer decided to call the doctor’s office to confirm the authenticity of the note doesn’t suggest to me that the guy in question was a stellar or even reliable employee up to this point.

                1. A Kate*

                  Oh, could be. I read it that he had claimed to have taken the vacation time to take care of a medical thing (and thus really needed it to be approved), but re-reading I see that isn’t totally clear.

            4. Green*

              It’s not just the lie. It’s the elaborateness of it (faking documents using real doctors’ information to substantiate it) and then doubling down on it when questioned about it.

              Nearly all employees lie to their employer at some point, but this is pretty high on the Lie Richter Scale.

            5. Not So NewReader*

              It seems to me that they gave him an opportunity to rectify the situation- they actually met with him and asked him about the note. He could have said, “My head was in the wrong place. I screwed up big time here. That’s not a real note.” But instead of taking a step back he went full speed forward. That was his chance to fix everything and he lost that chance.

              When the dust settled, he could have pointed out the problem with the two week’s lead time for PTO or the problems with the automated system. By going forward with his lie after being confronted he sent out a signal that he cannot and will not ever trust management to handle concerns. In a nutshell, he can’t trust them and they can’t trust him. Most relationships are over at this point.

              1. Collarbone High*

                Completely agree. One time an editor who I supervised inserted a huge, libelous mistake into a story — big enough that the paper had to issue a public apology in addition to running a correction. This happened on my day off, so I came in to several furious emails demanding an investigation. I printed out the story’s edit history, called in the offender, and asked him if he was responsible.

                At first he denied having done any editing on the story. When I showed him the edit history, he made up a series of increasingly ridiculous excuses, going so far as to claim someone else must have logged in as him and done it. (This wasn’t possible in our system.) I was astounded by the conversation, and I imagine the boyfriend’s HR felt the same way — I was showing him conclusive proof he made a mistake and was lying, and he kept doubling down. It was surreal, and reminded me of dealing with a toddler covered in chocolate insisting no, I didn’t get in to the chocolate.

                It wasn’t the mistake that led me to recommend firing him — it was the irresponsible and unprofessional way he reacted afterward.

          2. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I completely agree with Alison– this is such a major lapse of judgment and integrity that I can’t excuse it. I could maaaaaybe see asking for forgiveness, but once he starts bringing up privacy laws and insisting they have no right to follow up the way they did? That’s more than a “dumb kid” mistake, that’s calculating manipulation.

            1. NickelandDime*

              I understand. I don’t completely agree because I think there are other factors in play here, but I completely understand feeling you just can’t trust someone after they pull a stunt like this.

        2. jhhj*

          Had he come in to the meeting and explained essentially that he thought the verbal ok was enough, when he found out it wasn’t he panicked because he already had non-refundable plane tickets so he made up the note to get the time off, he knows he was wrong, etc etc — would your response change?

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I ALSO would have a really hard time staying in a relationship with someone who did this, to be honest. It’s a shocking lack of integrity. And adding on the failure to take responsibility – nope. Those aren’t values I want in a partner.

          1. afiendishthingy*

            Yeah, the forgery is bad enough – that’s got to be illegal – but the failure to take responsibility would make my blood boil, as an employer or a significant other.

      4. Shannon*

        Forgery is a felony in all 50 states of America. What the boyfriend did is the legal definition of forgery. Does he need to go to jail for this? No, that’s a bit much. However, I think that firing employees who have displayed an aptitude for felonious behavior is pretty understandable.

        1. Brisvegan*

          Yep. If forgery is his go-to option for getting out of a difficulty, can you trust him not to forge customer signatures, client instructions, company credit signatures or other critical documents if he might get in trouble or be in other financial tight spots?

          In my profession, this would not only be an instant firing offence, but very likely a professional discipline issue that might get you kicked out of the profession if regulators caught wind of it.

    4. Ezri*

      I’d like OP to provide more information here, because it isn’t clear how much her boyfriend communicated with his boss outside of the verbal confirmation. I mean, I’d been assuming it was an automated rejection and serious lack of communication, but on a second read it says that they ‘knew’ he lied because he provided the note after his vacation had been rejected. So either they weren’t quick on the uptake, or they were and let him go on vacation so they could get their ducks in a row.

      If this *wasn’t* actually an automation snafu and management let him get in a situation where a verbally approved vacation would never be officially approved… that’s pretty bad. That would make OP’s boyfriend’s frustration more understandable.

      1. SystemsLady*

        Yeah, my gut feeling if he didn’t communicate at all is that the OP’s boyfriend made a lot of assumptions about how the PTO system worked and didn’t bother to confirm them. Meaning he’d rather lie his way through than communicate with the manager he assumed wronged him, which is an extremely valid reason to fire somebody.

        If he did communicate with his manager after the PTO was denied, then there’s the argument to be made that the company was a little more in the wrong here.

      2. LawBee*

        I don’t know how more information would change things – he lied in a big way, got caught, was offered the opportunity to fess up, didn’t, and was subsequently fired. I feel like all the discussion about the leave policy, what the manager did or didn’t do, etc is a distraction. What he should have done is either not book the flight before getting absolute confirmation that leave was approved (which is just what you do when you’re booking expensive travel, no matter how draconian or not the leave policy may be), or when it was rejected, gone to his manager and asked for help.

        What he did do was lie lie lie lie lie lie lie. Forging a doctor’s note, then sticking to the lie is not a forgivable offense.

        I hope his Cuban vacation was amazing, because he’s going to be paying for it for a while.

        1. Brisvegan*

          I am guessing from you name at you are in law? Me, too.

          I am having a very similar reaction to you. My immediate gut reaction is: this guy is a lying liar who lies and should not work anywhere where trust matters. Maybe this is a result of us internalising ethical standards, since some people seem like they would be OK keeping him on?

          Imagine the Bar Association or other relevant legal standards body reaction to this! (Spoiler for non-lawyers: he would be likely suspended or struck off for forgery.)

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                Ok, your corrections are cracking me up. And I totally agree, this is something that would likely lead to a suspension if not outright disbarment. And maybe it seeing the situation through the lawyer filter, but the whole time I was reading the letter, I was thinking, “Oh, no no no.”

          1. LawBee*

            soooooooooo suspended. And good luck finding another legal job – we certainly wouldn’t hire him.

      3. OP HERE !!!!*

        From what I was told, the boss rejected it based off time frame alone, no other factors. He mentioned their previous discussions, however he was unwilling to go tit-for-tat with a boss who has previously thrown him under the bus, and their working relaitonship wasn’t on the best of terms.

        I do wonder if they let him go to Cuba because they were looking for a way to get rid of him. All his clients loved him and he had excellent reviews every year, but him and management had some issues. That being said, this pattern of unprofessional behavior isnt normal for him at all.

        1. Viva L*

          Wow – thank you for coming back and clarifying! There has been quite a bit of disagreement on this thread, and I personally really appreciate you coming back and discussing it further. Sometimes, things can seem so black and white when you have only a couple of paragraphs of information. The fact that this isn’t his only income stream, and the fact that this wasn’t an auto-reject really paints a different picture of the situation. Both sides could have handled it better, obv. but I think you and everyone else knew that going into it. ;-)
          I hope he gets his hours certified and best of luck to both of you!

    5. Wilton Businessman*

      100% agree with you Mike about being painted into a corner. He had other options though, it was a bad choice.

    6. Laurel Gray*

      Mike, I still believe the boyfriend should have went back and had a convo with the manager reminding them of their initial convo, not make up the medical issue. Because he never had the follow up “hey, a few weeks back we talked about this and you said the time was approved so I booked and paid for non refundable travel” convo, boyfriend was never backed into a corner.

      Either way, bosses and policies like this are what create employees with moderate to extreme CYA personal policies in the workplace.

        1. OfficePrincess*

          I’d say we’d be getting a different letter if it had. BF going to the boss to try to work it out and having the boss say no dice is a pretty weird thing to leave out.

          1. Mike C.*

            But not mentioning it at all is absolutely bizarre, don’t you think? Why wouldn’t you say something?

            1. OfficePrincess*

              It’s no more bizarre than making up a medical crisis, forging a note, and calling a lawyer when you get caught. BF hasn’t exactly given us a track record of rational behavior to go by.

                1. fposte*

                  Not clear–what’s the “it” in that sentence? Vacation recission, note forgery, or something else?

            2. fposte*

              Got me, but I think that’s how it went down.

              I do wonder if there was already some resentment from the BF toward this workplace and if this was a final “I’m tired of them jerking me around!” thing. It’s the kind of passive-aggressive showing you how mad I am thing that isn’t hugely uncommon (it’s pretty much the preteen sulk); somebody who acts like that could definitely be somebody who doesn’t think to own up and apologize but instead digs himself in deeper.

            3. Chriama*

              I think that’s the kind of mental attitude that goes along with the later behaviour of faking a medical emergency. OP says she doesn’t think the boss knew the vacation was out of the country, which makes it sound like the BP either didn’t communicate it at all, or communicated it very badly. I don’t know why we would assume that the boss knew and just wanted to be a jerk, when we see strong behavioural evidence that indicates the BF has poor judgement.

            4. Sunshine*

              I believe that is a big part of everyone’s question. You’re assuming it happened because it should have happened, but based on other info in the letter, I get the vibe that he did NOT talk to his boss after his request was denied. OP says that the employer didn’t know about the trip

              1. Kelly L.*

                +1. Just because a reasonable person would have done a thing, it doesn’t mean a specific person–one who isn’t really acting rationally in lots of other ways too!–would have done that thing.

            5. Career Counselorette*

              Because some people don’t say anything. Some people have very little grasp of normal workplace communication, or absolutely no common sense or understanding of how this works. I’ve had clients who have literally stopped going to jobs when a family emergency comes up, and then act surprised when they’re terminated for job abandonment but admit they never told their employer the reason they didn’t show because they were afraid of getting fired. I’ve had clients ask me to help them sue the company or file an EEOC complaint after they’re disciplined or fired, and then upon further discussion it turns out they were the instigator of harassing someone else, or they lost $500 worth of merchandise, or some other grievous mistake that is obviously dangerous or unethical. If the guy didn’t totally understand the PTO policy and didn’t want to look stupid for not understanding it after 3 years, he may have been thinking it would be easier somehow to just forge a note for a different reason as if the employer wouldn’t know the difference. Obviously, that’s the wrong approach. Obviously, he’s in the wrong. The difference between making a mistake and totally lacking integrity lies in whether he is willing to admit that he did something wrong and drop it.

              One thing I always try to talk to my clients about is how to navigate situations like this so that they don’t jeopardize their future employability. It’s not a defense of the employer and their weird practices; it’s preparing someone to remain employed or able to find future employment and not racking up additional legal fees or going to jail for something they could easily repair by telling the truth. I see that your comments often skew very pro-employee, and perhaps it’s having the privilege of being in the working world for longer and taking for granted that you might do these things (ask in advance, try to work it out, specify actual dates), but there are a lot of people who have absolutely no idea of what is normal. Not all of them lie and forge like this. Some of them do. If that’s their instinct, it’s less important to get them to rail against The Man than it is to help them understand why this isn’t done and why it’s a breach of integrity.

              1. F.*

                This is why companies have Employee Handbooks (or similar information accessible on their intranet) letting employees know the policies and procedures. I tell every one of our new hires to take the handbook home and READ IT. You would be amazed at how many of them never do. And I also tell them that if they have any questions at all about a policy, to contact me (the HR Manager), and I will help them.
                I also sense a strong sense of entitlement from the boyfriend. I have run into this many times. This usually manifests itself in many ways in the employee’s life and job performance, not just isolated incidents.
                I also have a concern about negotiating a neutral or positive reference for this former employee. As a hiring manager, I would absolutely want to know about behavior like this in a job candidate.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                Very little grasp – oh my how true. Recently a person in my life got thrown for a loop when told to include a self-addressed stamped envelop. “What is THAT? Where do I buy one of those?” Oh, my.

                Everyone has gaps in their pool of knowledge. We have choices. We can either ask someone (a humbling experience) OR we can force the envelop like BF did here.
                It concerns me that OP seems to have a good head on her shoulders and probably gave her BF good, solid advice all along the way. And, yet, somehow this all happened.

              3. Sammie*


                There are SO many things that people just don’t say–and then suffer the repercussions. Like you said, “they just don’t….”

            6. neverjaunty*

              “Assumes facts not in evidence.”

              Less snarkily, why wouldn’t you? Well, YOU would, but a lot of people wouldn’t. Because they’re incompetent, or they think they’re smarter than the system, or they figure they’ve got a Cunning Plan, or because saying something would be admitting they screwed up (“uh, yeah, Boss, I forgot to put in for my leave with HR in time”).

              1. Mike C.*

                Do you believe a lot of people would take the rejection at face value without bringing up previous approval?

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Again, Mike C., you’re assuming facts not in evidence. And yes, I can absolutely believe there are people who do this, because I have known people who behave exactly this way – they think they’re so clever that they’re above following rules, or they screw up and then dig themselves in deeper, or they never bother to find out the rules in the first place, or they’re just uninterested in anything but getting what they want. (If you haven’t known such people, that’s great and I hope you go through life never meeting any, but I assure you, the OP didn’t find one in seven billion here.)

                2. Cat*

                  I think some people would and it’s not unusual as you’re assuming. Some people are not taught to advocate for themselves, are not taught to explicitly question authority, and are taught that people in authority do arbitrary and capricious things that will screw you over because they can. And some people’s life experience backs that up. I think someone for whom that is their personal history is not unlikely to respond by not talking to their boss, and they may then respond with a nuclear option like forging a doctor’s note because, contradictory as it is on some level, that doesn’t violate the scripts I mentioned above the way directly advocating with your boss does.

                3. Chameleon*

                  neverjaunty, you just described my father-in-law. Who was once fired for punching his manager…and then tried to sue.

                4. JB (not in Houston)*

                  I can’t tell you how many lawsuits and criminal cases I’ve seen arising out of people not doing what seems like the obvious thing to most people, or doubling down on a bad decision. I’m not saying that’s what happened here (although I read the letter as implying that he had not followed up about it), but I wouldn’t be the least surprised to find out that’s what happened.

            7. eplawyer*

              Not everyone thinks to try to talk it out first. They believe no one will listen. The PTO got denied, there can’t be a workaround. So right to lying, forgery. There are a lot of all or nothing people.

              Again, it’s not the initial lie. Everyone does stupid stuff. It’s the doubling down about “Who me forge a doctor’s note. Waaaaaah HIPPAA, you’re all out to get me.” If he had come clean I would have said “okay well don’t let it happen again” and watched very closely until he earned back the trust. Guess, what? Employer. Can have any draconian leave policy they want (that is legal). Employees don’t get to lie to their employers then claim unfairness of treatment or that trust goes both ways. But once someone refused to admit they screw up — Bye, Bye, don’t buy bonds.

              Like the lady yesterday who refused to admit she said something she should not have in a private conversation. Then tried to hide behind “But I said to keep it private” when refusing to discuss it with HR. She was pulling the victim card too.

              Everyone screws up. Admit it, move on. Don’t compound the screw up by painting yourself as the victim.

        2. Bostonian*

          But if he had, wouldn’t he have mentioned his nonrefundable travel arrangements and made it impossible to use the medical excuse later? Maybe I’ve just worked in informal offices, but in that sort of conversation I would pretty much always reveal information that would make it super-obvious I was lying if I claimed a different reason later on.

          1. Sunshine*

            Which could be why he didn’t approach his boss after it was denied. If he did and was still refused, his lie is that much more obvious.

          2. LBK*

            Yeah, if the employer knew the situation I really don’t think the BF would have been dense enough to say “Just kidding, I’m not actually going on that trip, I’m having a medical procedure”. Not that the lie he went with was particularly rock solid, but I’d hope no grown adult would think they could get away with being that obvious.

        3. Anna*

          I would be absolutely shocked if it DID happen and it’s the one major detail left out by the OP, which would give the whole letter an entirely different spin and put their boyfriend in a more sympathetic light.

        4. myswtghst*

          Honestly, I would be absolutely shocked if he did have that conversation with his boss, because if he had, I have no idea how the “medical leave” option would have been workable at all.

          I think Bostonian, LBK, and Sunshine make a great point in their short thread – my assumption was that he received the time off rejection, freaked out, and decided to go the “medical leave” route immediately, knowing that if he talked to his manager about the vacation (and non-refundable travel) and was still told no, the “medical leave” option would be pretty well off the table and he really would be stuck.

    7. Viva L*

      Of course he had good options: 1) Talk to HR about the rejection, alerting them that he has approval. 2) Talk to his manager about the dates/timing 3) change his plane tickets – yes it takes more $$, but if you have $$ to go on a vacation, you have some flexibility to change the tickets, or at least investigate the option 4) Explain to his manager/HR what a bind he was in, and ask for some flexibility 5) bag the trip entirely – financial loss, but he still has a job. 6) give the trip to someone else, have them reimburse you

      I count 5 good options right there, a potential 6th solution, and I haven’t even put a lot of thought in to this. There was no corner except the corner the OP’s bf put HIMSSELF in.

      1. V.V.*

        I am not against your plan or anything, Viva L. but the last several times I’ve purchased plane tickets I have been freaking out because they are non transferable, non refundable, and if you make a typo and the names on your license and ticket don’t match, you have to pay beaucoup bucks to fix it… if they even let you. The last time I bought one, it was cheaper to buy a new ticket than to pay the change fees!

        (Then to top it off, the stupid airline has a character limit so your ticket gives you a *bleeping* heart attack when you go through all that just to then see it printed out “Victor Vixare” rather than Victoria Vixarelli… when they KNOW TSA doesn’t have to let me on the plane if the papers don’t match.)

        I don’t think you can give airline tickets to other people anymore. :(

        1. Cath in Canada*

          There was a story earlier this year about a guy who broke up with his girlfriend after booking non-refundable tickets for a round-the-world trip together. The airline refused to give a refund or let him transfer the ex-girlfriend’s ticket, so he advertised for someone with the same name as his ex to take the ticket for free – and he found someone!

      2. Honeybee*

        Airline change fees for tickets are as high as $200 these days, and not everyone has an extra $200 laying around. Just because you have money to take a vacation doesn’t mean you have an extra $200. And most airline tickets are non-transferable, meaning you can’t give the trip to someone else.

        He did still have other options besides lying about a medical procedure.

    8. Green*

      I disagree that the employer has “way more agency here.” I have my very expensive dream vacation I’ve been saving up for for years scheduled in two weeks. If something at work happened for which they suddenly wanted me to be there, I’d re-emphasize my plans and their importance to me (with escalations up the chain as necessary). But if it came down to it, I’d decide whether I wanted the vacation more or the job more.

      This isn’t “eh, I’m not feeling well” calling-in-sick once when he’s hungover or didn’t sleep well. This was an elaborate lie that required some planning and effort to be deceitful, a doubling down when he had the opportunity to fess up, and then blaming the company for the consequences of his behavior (HIPAA? really?). He’s 100% in the wrong and he accepted the risks of negative work consequences at every progressively worse decision point here.

      1. V.V.*

        But should your desire to go on the vacation you planned and paid for cost you your job? I don’t think so, and I think it is really, really unfortunate that so many people accept that “sometimes that is how things are.” Nobody should be put in that situation, I would argue that any company should absolutely avoid doing that to someone.

        1. Honeybee*

          It’s not the desire to go on the vacation that cost him the job – it’s the scheming and lying.

          1. V.V.*

            Hi Honeybee, my comment was specifically in reference to Green’s comment of:

            “I’d re-emphasize my plans and their importance to me (with escalations up the chain as necessary). But if it came down to it, I’d decide whether I wanted the vacation more or the job more.”

            I mean that is pretty stand-up position and all, but I reassert my position that no employee should be faced with this choice, nor should a company paint someone into this kind of corner.

  14. Ali*

    As someone who’s been looking for a full time job for over a year and can only get part time offers, it baffles me that people like this find and keep work. This is something you should be smart enough to not do even if the boyfriend is just out of college.

    1. Mike C.*

      This is really over the top. The boyfriend had been at this place of work for years and was screwed over on a vacation request.

      1. KT*

        How was he screwed over? He was denied PTO with less than 2 weeks notice, he could have gone back to his boss and said “Hey Joe, remember when I talked to you a few weeks ago about my PTO? I actually submitted it into the system and it got denied…I bought a nonrefundable ticket to Cuba so I’m in a tight spot. Can we work something out?”.

        He didn’t. Instead, he forged, lied, and lied again.

        1. Mike C.*

          He received verbal approval from his boss before hand because he knew the system wouldn’t allow him to make the request officially until later.

            1. Mike C.*

              The doesn’t stop him from being screwed over. He already gave management a heads up, it shouldn’t have been denied.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                No, it shouldn’t have been. That sucks and is shady. But it’s suckier and shadier to make up a condition and forge a doctor’s note because of what might possibly be a mix-up, a change in policy, or simply something unfair.

                Yes, they didn’t treat him the best they could. But he went off and, without even having a rational conversation, lied. Lied in a way that’s pretty significant. The mature thing to do would have been to approach the boss and discuss things, including the new information that he had actually purchased a plane ticket.

                1. Mike C.*

                  Let me be clear here, there aren’t any winners here. I just think the employers had more agency to make this right before it went off the rails.

                2. Shannon*

                  I can’t respond to Mike C below, so, I’m leaving this here.

                  At what point did the employer have any agency to make this right before it went off the rails? Instead of bringing the problem with the system to a person who had any authority to fix it, he went straight to forging a doctor’s note and lying to his manager.

              2. fposte*

                Of course it could have stopped him from being screwed over. (Meaning of course it had that potential, not that of course it would, because I don’t know for sure.) I get auto-rejections for stuff all the time that don’t screw me, because it’s just a crude triage, not the final word, and when I talk to somebody about the mistaken rejection it gets undone.

                If he said “Hey, boss, I got a rubberstamp no on that vacation you approved for me” and the boss said “Sucks to be you,” then yeah, he got screwed.

                1. puddin*


                  Booking a flight on a verbal OK, when the request sounds like it was a delicate timing issue is just not emotionally intelligent. Maybe it is just one of those things you have to learn in the workplace – Cover Your Ass, Get It In Writing Always.

              3. Intern Wrangler*

                Our reporting system would have automatically denied this. It’s just the way it works. But we ask employees to get written approval through email in this kind of situation. They present the email approval to HR and they are able override the system. But we require written documentation of the conversation.
                I don’t think we have enough information to know that he was screwed over unless we know that he took steps to communicate about the verbal approval.

              4. LawBee*

                I think that a system denied something, but that doesn’t mean management screwed him – he didn’t give them the opportunity to make it right.

            2. Anna*

              Exactly my point! His first response after the system denied him was to lie. Not to go back to his manager, not to explain the plans he had made based on the verbal approval. No. His first response after this snafu was to plan an elaborate lie so he could still go.

              1. Mike C.*

                I’ve said this a couple of times already, but I would be absolutely shocked if the previous agreement wasn’t brought up again to contest the original rejection.

                1. waterfalls*

                  There is nothing in the letter to support that. Why are you so convinced that this had to have happened, despite the absence of any evidence? This makes no sense at all if that did happen. It makes a (twisted liars) kinda sense if it didn’t.

                2. Anna*

                  I’m pretty sure the OP would have included that detail if it had happened. It’s a fairly major part of the story to just forget to mention.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Mike, I think you’ve got to stop taking that as an absolute given, because it’s not mentioned in the letter. Raise it as a possibility, sure, but you’re aggressively defending this guy based on a pretty big assumption that isn’t in the letter. But I guess the more interesting question is: If you’re wrong and he didn’t do that, how does your stance change?

                4. Shannon*

                  I admit we’re hearing this third hand. I suspect that there are large chunks of this story we’re not being told. However, we can’t really effectively discuss or speculate information we don’t have access to.

            3. Not So NewReader*

              I would think that it would be well-known that the system screws up PTO requests. He had been there three years and he did not know there was a problem? Okay, I’ll skate by that and move to the next step: why not tell the boss the system screwed up? Find out what the boss says. It could be that the company would boil it down to,”Okay, you can use unpaid time for your travel” for some unforeseen reason that we do not know about. At least BF would be coming back to a job. Now there is no job.

          1. Ezri*

            Which is fine, but like KT I’d like to know whether OP’s boyfriend talked to his boss after the request was denied. If he did and the boss said ‘too bad’ after travel plans were made, that’s a little different than just deciding to forge a medical note without talking to anyone. I can see someone panicking and doing something foolish when dealing with a toxic workplace… but we don’t have enough information to judge how bad the workplace is.

            1. Anna*

              Agree, but I think what gives us more insight is that the OP doesn’t mention that her boyfriend went back to the manager after the denial to talk about it. It speaks volumes that it isn’t included.

              1. Mike C.*

                Or the OP left it out because the letter was getting long or simply forgot? Bringing up the prior approval is such a trivial thing that I would be absolutely shocked if it was never mentioned.

                1. fposte*

                  I think it’s not fair to blame the manager without knowing it happened, though, and we don’t know that.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But Mike, the OP says the employer didn’t even know the boyfriend had plans to travel out of the country. That sounds to me like there’s a good chance he didn’t go to the boss and explain the situation before decided to go the forged-note route. I know you’ve said elsewhere in this thread that you can’t believe that could be the case because it’s so weird, but the OP clearly says the employer didn’t know, and frankly forging a note is so weird that you’ve got to admit that, absent clearer info from the OP, it’s quite possible.

                  Would you temper your stance if in fact he didn’t go to the boss and try to resolve this by sharing fuller information? (I actually don’t fully understand your stance, to be honest. It seems obvious to me that the boyfriend deserves to be fired.)

                3. Apollo Warbucks*

                  I see where Mike is coming from, the OPs boyfriend wouldn’t have felt the need to forge the note and lie if the request had been handled better or the verbal approval homered.

                  But to me the response to the holiday request falling through wasn’t reasonable so the OPs boyfriend is more at fault.

                4. Mike C.*

                  Saying that the Employer didn’t know they were going out of country doesn’t mean anything to me because it’s a very common practice not to discuss plans for time off.

                  If the boyfriend never brought up the previous agreement I would absolutely temper my stance here.

                  I’m specifically objecting to this idea that the boyfriend is totally at fault.

                  My actual stance here is that this whole thing is a cluster of a situation, that the employer screwed the boyfriend out of a vacation they were approved for, painted the boyfriend into a corner, and then the boyfriend made some bad decisions in response. While these decisions were bad, I believe that the employer had more agency to stop this from happening in the first place, and should take a hard look at how they treat their employees.

                  I can take or leave the firing because I think there’s a strong case for either – which is why I haven’t really commented on it.

                5. fposte*

                  @Mike C.–But I don’t think we can default to thinking he was screwed, given that the facts provided indicate he hotheadedly skipped a step.

                6. A Definite Beta Guy*

                  Well, let’s play out one possible scenario:
                  Employee: So what about that vacation that was verbally approved?
                  Manager: Ahhhh, yeah, I guess I was wrong about that, sorry.
                  Employee: But what about the agreement?
                  Manager: Nothing I can do, sorry. Company policy.

                  Why bother bringing up your plane flight at that point? I am not saying this DID happen, but it’s a scenario where apparently your manager is not going to bat for you, despite prior verbal agreement.

                7. fposte*

                  @ Definite Beta Guy–because it’s a reasonable point to make and something the manager should know about. This isn’t just “will the manager get me my vacation or no?”, it’s “Now we have a problem that I wouldn’t be in otherwise; how do we solve this together?”

                8. Not So NewReader*

                  I doubt OP would have forgotten to mention that her BF went back to the manager after the automatic denial.
                  If BF talked to the manager and the convo went well- there would be no letter here.
                  If BF talked to the manager and the convo went bad that would only add fuel to the story line here. It would enable us to be more empathetic to BF.

                  OP seems to be very level-headed, I think she would have included it if he did go back to the boss after the denial.

                  BUT. All of this is kind of beside the point because one person’s (or company’s) poor behavior does not legitimize the poor behavior of other people. Just because one person does something wrong, does not give the next person license to do whatever.
                  Yes, unethical people will drive those around them to unethical behaviors. It’s human nature to be vulnerable to that. If someone feels that they have to become “less than” to retain a job, then it is time to figure out how to move on.

                  Even some of the crappy companies I have worked for would work something out with a person if they had a non-refundable ticket. Usually it went like this, “Okay, this time we will allow it. The next time this happens, you will come back to NO job after your vacation.” They left the person with NO doubt that they could not make this error again. I am inclined to believe that BF stood a chance of working it out, if he had explained what a bind he was in.

                9. Green*

                  I don’t think the storyline is *more* empathetic if employee talked to their manager and the conversation didn’t go well though.

                  OP’s Boyfriend: “Hey, remember how we talked about how I wanted to take vacation July 9-16?”
                  OP’s Boss: “Yeah, we need you here then unfortunately.”/”You didn’t get your request in and I authorized other folks’ vacations and now we need you.”/”I don’t remember that.”
                  Next day, OP’s Boyfriend: “SO I HAVE A MEDICAL PROCEDURE I NEED DONE JULY 9 THROUGH THE 16th.”

                  This makes the lie even more obvious…

      2. Bend & Snap*

        Maybe screwed over, but he did a very naughty thing to get his vacation anyway. You can’t trust someone after a stunt like that. He shot himself in the foot.

          1. Bend & Snap*

            Trust in the employer, not in the employee. The employer sucked here but the employee went off the rails.

          2. Laurel Gray*

            You keep mentioning this verbal agreement and the OP’s boyfriend (according to the letter) never went back and reminded the boss of this verbal agreement. They immediately decided to lie about a medical procedure. I believe it is a reasonable assumption to assume that a boss can forget about a vacation request and do so with no malice. Sometimes a reminder of a conversation or forwarding an email with the original request is enough to jog a boss’s memory. We don’t know what was on this boss’ plate. They are dealing with their own work, other employees, their issues, their time off requests etc. I think the OP’s boyfriend failed tremendously when they chose not to revisit the conversation with the boss after the request was denied. The alternative they chose really shows a serious flaw in their character.

            1. Mike C.*

              We don’t know this actually. It’s such a trivial thing that I can’t imagine it never coming up again.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                Trivial? I’m so confused. He went to some pains to forge the doctor’s note, then instead of ‘fessing up, he got defensive because someone wanted to verify it, and now he’s calling in the lawyers. This is far from trivial.

                1. Mike C.*

                  No, the idea of responding to the rejection with, “You already approved this time off” as being an automatic response.

              2. Chriama*

                Dude, you’re deliberately interpreting things in one specific way when everyone around you has explained why they’re interpreting it a different way. It’s no big deal for you to hold that opinion, but when you respond to other commenters as if they’re holding the same set of assumptions as you it’s a little confusing.

                If people are criticising the boyfriend because they’re assuming his first response was to forge the note (rather than follow up with his boss to ask if/how this can be fixed), you pointing out that the company was unethical because they rejected a verbal agreement muddies the waters — those commenters are assuming the incompetence where you’re assuming malice, and I think it’s disingenious for you to note that after the fact, as if it wasn’t a major factor in assessing the situation.

                (I hope this doesn’t come across as a personal attack, but I’ve read through a few threads where people are talking in circles because you’re not stating your assumptions clearly)

                1. Mike C.*

                  I’m interpreting it that way because the automatic response when challenged in doing something you want to do is to show evidence that they’re mistaken and that you have prior permission.

                  You want to go to a concert and security says you can’t? Show them your ticket.
                  You want to build an addition to your house and someone says you can’t? Show them your permit.
                  New security guard at work says you don’t belong in your area? Show them your badge.
                  Work computer won’t let your unlock the screen? Type in your password.

                  In each of these common situations and a million more, the challenge of not being able to do what was previously approved of activity is immediately and unthinkingly challenged by proof of prior approval. If the boyfriend never mentioned the prior approval or never talked to his boss, that to me would be like never showing your concert tickets at the door or showing security your work badge. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But Mike, it’s entirely possible that he skipped that step because he showed himself to have poor judgment re: the forgery. There’s no reason to assume he showed excellent judgment up until that point, when it’s not stated as such in the letter.

                  It would make more sense to me if you said something like, “I wonder if he talked to the boss. If so, (insert anger at employer here).” But taken as a given makes no sense (and isn’t in sync with how we try not to read into letters stuff that isn’t actually there); I think you’ve got to acknowledge that we don’t know and then go to if/then scenarios.

                3. Mike C.*

                  I’m more than happy to agree to disagree, but even my kindergarten aged niece has responded to something she didn’t like with, “But daddy/mommy/grandma said it was ok!”

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But there are people upthread talking about people they know who wouldn’t have talked to the manager. It’s not an impossible thing for people to operate like that, and given that the letter doesn’t mention that he did talk to the manager, it’s unreasonable to insist he must have. What I’m saying — asking, really — is for you to allow for the fact that you don’t know and it doesn’t make sense to build a vehement defense on top of facts that are totally unknown. Or at least I’m requesting you stick to the “we’re not going to insist on facts that aren’t in the letter” norms of this site.

                5. Honeybee*

                  Kindergartners don’t have advanced planning skills. Someone else pointed out upthread that the OP’s boyfriend may have decided to go forward with the medical excuse because there was the possibility that if he talked to the manager and the manager said “sorry, but the request was denied, nothing I can do” the eventual medical excuse would’ve looked even more fishy up front.

          3. Elizabeth West*

            Even in court, verbal agreements are meaningless. Verbal offers of employment are meaningless. It’s all a lot of I said / you said.

            You want something guaranteed? Get it in writing. Then you have proof of the agreement if the boss reneges or if his/her boss or HR screws around with the PTO.

          4. afiendishthingy*

            IF that was the case and the BF did talk to the manager before going the forgery route. Then yeah they screwed him. And then the boyfriend COMMITTED A FELONY and refused to take responsibility for it. They did not paint him into a felony-commission-then-lying-more corner.

    2. The IT Manager*

      I just agree. Except I think he was expecting them to allow him to pull the wool over their eyes to avoid a firing because its a terrible plan. He also seems to be one of those people who instead of owning up to lie/fault/blame instinctively doubles down on the lie all the time.

      I will assume that the BF is not dumb enough to think “no will notice that I talked about vacation in July, requested vacation which was denied, and then put in for sick leave and no body will be suspicious.”

      I dislike lying. I think I even more dislike the failure to accept responsibility which seems to be the BF’s MO as well. “They caught me in a lie; well, well, they never should have even talked to the doctor’s office because of HIPPA so it’s not my fault my plan failed.”

  15. caryatid*

    Alison, just curious – what would your advice have been if the boyfriend had asked for it BEFORE he took the trip/forged the note? How would you have advised him to negotiate to be able to take this trip?

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      My guess would be to have a conversation with the manager where the employee says something like “based on your verbal assurances I could have the time off I booked a flight and hotle and have arranged my holidays around that promise, what can we do now so I don’t lose the money I’ve spent”

      1. Anon Accountant*

        Agreed. If they still said it wasn’t possible for him to have the verbally approved time off maybe they could offer to reimburse him for the non-refundable portion of his expenses? As a “we’re sorry we aren’t honoring the previous verbally approved request” but realize you are losing money because you relied on us.

        That’d be a way they could rectify the issue if it truly wasn’t possible to have that time off.

        1. Shannon*

          One of my husband’s old jobs used to have a policy that would refund the non-refundable part of vacation plans if they gave approval and later had to rescind it. This is due to the volatile nature of his job (large machine repair. Can’t predict when large machines break.)

      2. F.*

        And HAD he done that, I can imagine the manager and employee jointly contacting the department who approves vacations and getting the whole thing worked out. People in HR are human, too. We are not out to screw anyone. We recognize that there can be flaws in automated systems. However, we don’t know about your particular problem until you ask.

    2. Colette*

      Here’s what I’ve done in the past.
      When I didn’t have enough days to take the time I wanted off (I was new on the job and hadn’t accrued enough days to go home for my university graduation), I said “Hey, I wanted to go to my convocation in May, but I’d need 4 days off, and I can’t officially take time off until July. Can I take the days in May and record them in July?” My manager said yes.

      In my last job, we had a July shutdown. I booked couple of days off and about 7 days after. My manager said “actually, we don’t want you out that long, can you come back 5 days after”. That wasn’t my first choice, but I offered to come back for 2 days after shutdown and then take a week off, and that was fine.

      In this case, he could have said something like “Based on our verbal agreement, I booked plane tickets. I wasn’t able to officially request vacation since I didn’t have the days until July 1. Can you waive the 2 week advance notice requirement? I’d hate to have to cancel my trip.”

      1. Not Karen*

        Your manager’s response is surprisingly generous for that first occurrence, seeing as how it’s assuming you’re definitely going to still be working there in July. I might expect a “Yes, but you have to take the days off as unpaid” though.

        1. Colette*

          Well, they’d paid for me to move across the country, so I wasn’t going to quit for 2 years (unless I felt like replaying relocation). But yes, he could have said no and I wouldn’t have gone. I was very, very homesick, though, so it was probably good that he said yes.

        2. Honeybee*

          I don’t think it’s unreasonable for an employer to expect an employee to still be around 2 months later. And if it did suddenly become a problem, they could just subtract the PTO from their last paycheck.

    3. Mike C.*

      The cynic in me says, “pay the fee for a doctor’s visit and get a note from someone who will actually have your back. In return, bring back some Havanna Club or if the doctor is really old school some nice cigars”.

      1. Ann*

        Wait, you’re saying that Alison would have recommend that he get a doctor’s note for a non-existent medical emergency in exchange for cigars? Really?

      2. LBK*

        Is there any part of you that isn’t a cynic? I don’t know if you’ve just only worked for the biggest assholes in the world but I cannot imagine this playing out any other way than “Hey, I thought you’d said it was okay to take this time off?” “Oh crap, I totally forgot – I’ll go fix that right now.”

        I also don’t understand what your point is in all of this. If we assume you’re right and the manager remembered the original conversation, purposely denied the request and then refused to budge after the BF asked about it, I can *maybe* understand lying so you can go on your trip. I cannot in any way fathom the actions that follow that – forging the note, lying about forging the note and then continuing to place all of the blame for those actions on the employer are all baffling to me. I really hope you’re not trying to say that you think all of that is justified because the employer went back on their word and that the employer actually *is* to blame for the BF going off the rails like this.

        1. Jeanne*

          I am a HUGE cynic with some bad experiences. We could do this like a car accident with percentages of blame. Even as a cynic where some managers have worked hard to be jerks, I’ll divide this about 12% manager and 88% employee/boyfriend. It just devolved into a big cluster.

  16. Wilton Businessman*

    First of all, BF got screwed by his manager since the manager already verbally approved the time off. The proper course of action would have been to pursue it with the manager involved and try to get it resolved.

    That being said, BF went about it wrong on other aspects as well. He knew he needed to get vacation approved two weeks before, but didn’t have enough vacation. Secondly, BF made a big mistake forging a doctor’s note.

    As with most things, it’s not the crime, it’s how you deal with it that gets you in trouble. If BF said “Yes, I know I F’ed up, but Bob already approved my time and I was stuck with possibly losing $XX”, I think he’d still be working there.

    I hope OP is paying attention. This guy may not be “long term” material if you know what I mean.

  17. Amber Rose*

    I understand things work differently in the states, but I have straight up asked doctors for notes and as long as I paid the $10 fee, got one. There are usually ways.

    Anyways he really should have seen this coming. It’s suspicious as hell. There are 10 year olds shaking their heads at how transparent that lie is. If he really thought he wouldn’t get caught, that’s a pretty big insight into his lack of sense, to go along with his ridiculous reaction to getting caught.

    Fun side story: my husband is the only male at his work. He once jokingly called his boss and said he was sick with cramps, and she let him have the day off. :D

    1. RG*

      Lol at 10 year olds shaking their heads. But no, this is not one of the best laid plans of mice and men.

    2. Ad Astra*

      It works about the same way in the U.S., except the fee is closer to $30 or $40 with good insurance. It would still be worth the fee to keep your job, though.

  18. Ad Astra*

    It’s too late now, but couldn’t he have gone to an actual doctor to get cleared to return to work? The company doesn’t need to know what his medical issue was, but they do need to know that he can be at work without the risk of infecting coworkers or exposing the company to liability. Since he was healthy, wouldn’t a doctor be able to honestly and ethically say he’s fine?

    1. Laurel Gray*

      He probably could have but I think the lie was the first display of lack of ethics and this route would be drowning in the well of it! Also, I think any doctor that would give a note clearing a patient to return to work when there was no illness or procedure that they were aware of is a lack of ethics on their part.

      1. Ad Astra*

        I guess I assumed the boyfriend would say “I haven’t been feeling well so I missed a week of work and now I need a note to come back. Could you check me out?” The doctor’s not being asked to confirm an illness, he’s being asked to confirm health. If I had a bad cold and missed a bunch of work, the doctor probably wouldn’t have been aware of my legitimate illness until I felt good enough to go back to work, which would require a doctor’s note.

        Of course, the better option would have been to tell the truth in the first place.

        1. GigglyPuff*

          But my guess in this situation, most cases the doctor you get to clear you for work would be the one who you got a note from for approval to leave work.

          Since the BF forged the note, when they asked for a clearance note to come back to work, he probably would have gotten caught if it had been a real doctor on the second note and not matched the first note.

          Least I would find that weird if the doctor’s didn’t match on the notes.

          1. Ad Astra*

            Well, you could be right. I had assumed that the company didn’t require a note to leave work, just to come back. My company’s policy is that you need a note to return after three or more sick days, so the only note involved is the one that says you’re not sick.

            I was thinking the company approved the medical leave just based on his word, and the note he forged was the one giving him clearance to return. Sure, that note would imply a medical need for the time off, but doesn’t actually confirm any illness or injury. Maybe I’m incorrectly interpreting it through the lens of my own company’s policy.

            1. Shannon*

              I’ve worked at companies that required a doctor to state that you were under their care from the first date you called out until you came back to work, even if you didn’t see a doctor until day 3 of calling out.

              1. Ad Astra*

                How does that play out? Does the doctor just write the note on Day 3 sort of retroactively, as if you’d shown up on Day 1? Is that the policy for a single sick day, or just multiple consecutive sick days?

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  Around here, doctors just roll their eyes and say, “Whatever you need, I’ll do it.” It’s not hard.

      2. Shannon*

        It’s also assuming that he didn’t just totally invent a doctor. Then it becomes, “Why did Dr. X do the procedure and Dr. Y clear you to come back to work? We need something from the same practice or hospital as Dr. X.”

  19. Marissa*

    If “his boss and manager were both very skeptical of his story” but could not prove anything, wouldn’t that mean that his boss was fully aware that the employee had a vacation booked? People are speculating that maybe the boss had totally forgotten the employee wanted the time off, but being skeptical would imply he remembered the vacation request, knew the employee was denied, and was finding it odd that the employee now had a medical procedure booked the same week (what a coincidence!). This does not excuse the boyfriend’s behaviour by any means, but it does kind of imply that the boss did indeed screw the guy over. Does it not?

    1. Kelly L.*

      Well, it sounds like he informally requested it with his boss a while back, if we assume he’s telling the full truth, but he also requested it through official channels at the last minute. So when it was denied and he came right back with the medical excuse, nobody would even have to remember a first request to get suspicious. They’ve got the second one in the system, very recently, and it’s obvious that he’s asking for the exact same time off.

  20. Bostonian*

    Maybe I’ve just never worked at a big enough organization, but this whole PTO approval process sounds super-weird to me. The boyfriend got verbal approval from his boss but then the boss denied his official request? Or he got the verbal approval but had to submit his official request to someone else? Does that person have to go back and clear all requests with the person’s manager? If there was a convoluted policy around when you can submit PTO requests, shouldn’t the boyfriend have known what it was? This kind of policy is the sort of thing that would be the subject of regular water-cooler griping in most offices, and after three years I would have thought the boyfriend would be familiar with how things work.

    I’ve worked at organizations ranging from 5 – 1500 or so employees, and arranging to use PTO has always been a matter of clearing it with the boss and then somehow telling whoever tracks payroll/benefits (by submitting a form, entering it on a timesheet, sending an email to the person who runs payroll for the tiny nonprofit, or whatever). The manager’s approval has always been what mattered, and the rest was a formality. I suppose the systems where you reported time to payroll after you took it could have left people taking time they didn’t have, but somehow it’s never been a problem at any of the places I’ve worked. Certainly my first thought if there was a problem with the paperwork end of things would be to talk to my boss about it, not to forge a doctor’s note. If the boss supported the request getting some sort of exception would have been routine everywhere I’ve worked.

    That lying seemed like a workable and reasonable solution to the boyfriend raises some serious red flags for me about his relationship with his boss and about the company culture and level of bureaucracy overall.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      Outside of coverage or a major project deadline, I don’t even understand PTO being denied.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        Coverage is a good reason, there are three of us at work who do the same job and at least one of us needs to be in the office, normally it isn’t a problem but sometimes it causes a headache.

    2. SystemsLady*

      The other way around seems a lot more common to me, and a lot of times it’s on a completely digital system. Employee submits leave request, payroll/system says “this is OK/not OK per policy”, email is sent to manager asking them to send back their approval (or click a button in the system). Usually PTO is tied to payroll and it doesn’t make a lot of sense for managers to have to deal with that. But that’s just how I’ve seen it everywhere my husband and I have worked, maybe it’s different at some companies.

      1. Bostonian*

        Thanks for the clarification. I left the largest company I’ve ever worked for in 2007, and they were pretty slow on the new-technology front and definitely didn’t have an automated system like this – I think each department had someone who emailed PTO info to the payroll person once per pay period or something ridiculous like that. My other jobs have been at pretty small places where it was handled more informally and an automated system wouldn’t have been worth the expense.

        1. dancer*

          My company is like yours. We send an approval form to our manager, and then manager passes it along to HR to register in the system. They’re also pretty relaxed about working with us if we need some extra time when we haven’t earned it.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Yes, that’s how we have it. We enter it and then the manager has to approve it. I always ask my manager via email (NEVER VERBAL) if I can have a certain day off–not because she needs me to ask, but so I can copy the other manager and my team leader. They can then let me know if they are about to dump a load of stuff on me. My manager is pretty laid-back; I could just say, “Hey, I need tomorrow off for a thing,” and she’s usually, “Cool.”

        I did make sure and let them know waaaay in advance for the very long autumn UK holiday and also several months before the second one. And I worked on the second one.

      3. Sammie*

        This… I used to direct report to the CEO of a 500+ person company. I would literally have to go to her office–ask her to open that particular email—and approve my request….every…single…time…

        When I spoke with HR about the ridiculous-ness of bugging the CEO with my vacation request they said, “well SOMEONE has GOT to approve it..its POLICY..”

        Much of my dislike of HR, in general, is based on my experiences with this company…..

    3. SL*

      I always get verbal confirmation from my boss that yes, I can take those days off, and then when I fill out my timesheet, I put in the request for the day(s) off, but the key here is that my boss is the one who approves or denies it. So in my case, the informal, verbal agreement is worth more than the actual approval in the system because my boss knows to expect the PTO request and has confirmed with me before that that yes, those dates are fine.

      1. Witty Nickname*

        Yep – mine is the same way. And my boss pretty much NEVER denies a request – we all have our own projects, so we aren’t really dependent on each other for coverage and just take time off as needed and as our schedules allow (last week I think everyone on my team was off on one of the days, including the boss. The company survived, barely. Heh). But I can just tell her during our weekly meeting that I’m going to need ___ day off, and she’ll tell me that’s fine. And then I try to remember to enter it into the system and actually submit it for approval (that part requires an extra step that isn’t actually indicated, so I just have to remember it), and she tries to remember to approve it, and a few times a year we do an audit to make sure our calendars match up to the time off recorded in the system and let our payroll department know if there are any discrepancies.

    4. Kyrielle*

      In our system, you submit your request for time off online. It then routes to your boss for approval, and when approved, you get notified. In a previous job, the online system validated that you would have enough vacation accrued at that point to take it, and wouldn’t let you enter it if you would not. (You could then enter unpaid time off, which your manager could approve, etc.)

      I can easily imagine a system that instead of proactively refusing to let you submit, lets you submit and then auto-rejects; and if they have a policy that they need at least two weeks of warning, I can easily imagine it being configured to auto-reject requests with less than two weeks notice. Not ideal, but it could be.

      It’s also possible they have a system that _would_ have allowed the request to be put in earlier (he “knew” it would be rejected if submitted earlier, but he didn’t submit it and have it rejected, and it’s possible he was wrong about that), and his boss received the request and rejected it because he was expecting at least two weeks of notice.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Agreed! Absolutely agreed. I was just trying to describe a scenario in which the boss might not be the one rejecting the request, and also one in which the boss might be the one rejecting the request *despite* having agreed to it in theory, in good faith.

    5. Judy*

      Yep, I’ve worked at 3 F50 companies, companies with 50,000 to 200,000 workers worldwide. I’ve always talked with or emailed or submitted a manager specific form to my manager, and then entered the time in a system that is connected to payroll.

  21. TotesMaGoats*

    It does not at all matter if the boss screwed the BF over, if the leave policies are unfair or onerous, or if the system is flawed. The BF lied and lied in a major way and then when caught in the lie went on the defensive instead of apologizing and trying to find a way out that didn’t include his firing. When your choose to make a decision like that, you negate the validity of all the reasons above. You’ve lost my sympathy.

      1. Viva L*

        Exactly. I’ve been trying to come at this from Mike C.’s perspective, and the honest truth here, is, even if the Boss denied the vacation after granting it verbally and royally screwed mike over, well, that’s a possibility of life. It sucks, and good managers wont do it without a solid reason, but it *can* happen. And when it does, there are solutions for it. Everyone here would be sympathetic, and Alison would probably even say “Hey, it’s a significant financial loss, but explain it to them, see if there’s anything they can do for you, and then carefully consider if you want to work for that kind of employer.” The appropriate response to being screwed over is to try to find another job, suck it up and deal with it, or find a way to make it mutually beneficial for them not to do that. Even if you cant do any of those things, it’s not to lie and forge your way into getting what you want.

        The BF, lying, forging a medical document, not coming clean when asked, and then deciding legal action is an option… well, those are the actions of someone that wants THEIR Way, hell or high water, and simply doesn’t understand that the world doesn’t work that way. Or, rather, that there are consequences to their actions.

  22. Mike B.*

    I’ve got to wonder how valuable an employee this guy was. For a solid performer (or even a so-so one), I’d totally take even a fishy medical excuse at face value–they went through a lot of unnecessary trouble to expose this lie. It sounds to me like they had been waiting for cause to fire him.

    1. OfficePrincess*

      I wouldn’t say it was a lot of unnecessary trouble. If someone had enough of a medical issue to keep them out for a week, I can understand wanting confirmation that they are ok to return to work.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      But it’s a family obvious lie,

      Employee: can I have this week off?
      Boss: no

      Sometime later ……………..

      Employee: oh no I’m sick I need an operation which just happens to be that exact same week
      Boss: oh reallllllllllllly!!! Yeah I’m sure you do.

      And of the note looked suspect hat just adds to the OPs boyfriends problem

    3. dawbs*

      Well, the ‘note to come back to work’ is possibly a safety rule.

      If an employee @ my workplace is out sick for a full week, we require a doc’s note for them to come back–not because we’re jerks (at least on that), but because we work with some hazardous stuff, and making sure someone is healthy enough not to hurt themselves/someone else is key.
      (Because, landing face down in a vat of acid apparently doesn’t really give superpowers.)

      And once you’ve asked for the ‘come back to work’ note, you might be kinda stuck in the “great, now we have to follow this sketchy trail of stupid lies” grove–because I can ignore some stupid things my employees do (and I do), but if they’re dumb enough to blatantly violate rules in front of me, I *HAVE* to deal with it or it undermines me as manager.

      1. Ad Astra*

        My company has the same policy, and nobody here works with hazardous materials. I think part of it is protecting the company from liability, as you say, and part of it is sort of indicating “If you’re going to take that much sick time, you better be sick enough to see a doctor.”

  23. De (Germany)*

    By forging that doctor’s note, he probably broke the law, right? Making it look like it was from the doctor’s office and everything, I suppose that’s also illegal in the US. He really should not be going down the legal road with this case…

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Forgery is illegal here, though I doubt most employers would bother to check the doctor’s note unless they were suspicious about it. In the OP’s boyfriend’s case, they certainly were (how could they not be!).

      I did some googling and found various anecdotes where this happened, the employer checked, and the employee was terminated.

  24. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

    The funny thing is this week I returned to work after maternity leave, which is classified as Short Term Disability at my workplace. So I had to get a doctor’s note saying I could return to work and meet with our medical team clearing me for work. Well I forgot to do this before my start date, and spent the morning running around. For awhile I considered forging the note because I knew I was healthy and found the whole thing ridiculous. But I didn’t and just showed up to work later than I wanted to. Glad I didn’t forge that note, they probably would have seen right through it. I couldn’t even forge notes in high school. Not sneaky enough.

    1. MJH*

      Yeah, I just had to do this, too, and it was weird. I had a c-section 12 weeks ago and you still need a note saying I’m fine? I think it’s a Disability/Insurance thing, but it was weird and thank God I’d emailed HR before returning so I knew about it (no one told me until I asked what I needed to do to return).

      1. Jeanne*

        It’s part of the requirement from the disability insurer usually. There’s some weird stuff. Like if you take another day for the same illness within 14 days of coming back from disability, it is part of the same disability. Also, the paperwork is the same coming back from maternity leave as from brain injury.

  25. A Kate*

    Since some people seem so incredulous that the LW’s boyfriend could possibly a) think forging the note was a good idea or b) be upset at the employer when he got caught, I wanted to try to offer some insight into how he might have been thinking. I was in a relationship once with someone once who I could totally see doing this. He didn’t deal well with uncertainty, so whenever a situation came up that he felt was high-stakes, his response was not “I’m sure we can discuss this reasonably to find a solution.”The uncertainty would have made him really anxious, so he would have thought “how can I make the other person do what I want them to?” so as to eliminate all risk they might not. An ideal quality in a relationship, right? Yeah, no surprise I’m no longer with him. ;-)

    If he were denied the original request in this situation, talking to the manager about it honestly would, in his mind, entail the unacceptable risk of being told he couldn’t take the vacation days despite the booked flight (especially if he felt the manager didn’t like him or didn’t care either way). In his mind, “Well if it’s medical, they have to let me” would have created a (false) sense of security that this unbearable risk was eliminated. So he gets the idea cemented in his mind that things now have to go his way because of this “solution” he’s found. When they don’t, he’s already become so secure the idea that he’s created a “safe” situation for himself, the fact that he got caught must mean that his employer did something wrong.

    I’m not saying this is what the LW’s boyfriend’s method of operation/way of thinking is. But based on the person I spent several years dealing with life’s obstacles and problems with, I read this letter without an ounce of surprise that someone with the right mix of anxiety about uncertainty and overconfidence in their ability to eliminate it would think that way.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Yes! I have known people who this boyfriend reminds me of, too. This comment makes them make so much more sense to me.

      Here’s one long-ago and small example: Guy was taking a college class, and was pretty much blowing it off. Never studied, never did his homework, skipped class a lot, was failing his tests. But when he did go to class, he always stayed a few minutes after class and invented some kind of question to ask the professor. (These were kind of inane, along the lines of the questions job candidates will ask when they follow up, just to show their gumption and interest.) All this time, he kept bragging to me about these damn questions, and telling me I needed to do that in all my classes too. I couldn’t figure out why he was so fixated on this.

      Dude fails the class, and is irate and disbelieving. How could he have failed? He stayed after class to ask questions! Umm…the lack of homework and the failed tests… But he stayed after class to ask questions! He had heard it somewhere as good advice, and internalized it into an ironclad rule: if you stay after class and ask questions, you will get a good grade. To his mind, the professor had broken an agreement.

      1. fposte*

        That’s kind of fascinating. “But I gamed the system in exactly the way that would have worked!” I guess it’s the same logic as people who complain to the cops when they get ripped off in drug deals.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            You’d be surprised the amount of effort some people put into scams when they could have just been doing the thing they were trying to avoid in the first place. It’s really twisted logic. But it makes total sense to them.

            1. Collarbone High*

              My friend was editing a book and stumbled on the discovery, near the end, that the authors had plagiarized the entire thing. They’d copied from hundreds of sources and woven the stolen material together very skillfully. He showed me the presentation he’d given to the publishing house and we figured it was twice as much work to plagiarize than to actually research and write the book.

      2. Career Counselorette*

        Wow- I had this boyfriend too! After a series of probations and discussions and whatnot, he was ultimately kicked out of a boarding school in high school (he had to finish at a public school in the city), AND out of college (he never ended up completing his degree) for not doing one single assignment his entire time there. He figured that because he was in a specific religious setting where they were all “friends” and “equals” and everyone liked him, that meant he didn’t have to actually do any work. Unsurprisingly, he was not a very good boyfriend either.

          1. A Kate*

            Yes! This has been a nice reassurance that I’m not the only one who made bad relationship choices in college.

      3. JB (not in Houston)*

        I don’t know if this would be an appropriate open thread topic, because I can see how it could take a wrong turn, but I would love to hear other people’s stories along these lines.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Yes, this. I’ve unfortunately known plenty of people who would do exactly this. Sociopaths, and people who simply have a very overblown sense of entitlement, simply see that they want X, therefore they should get X, and whatever they do to get X is justified because it gets them X. Some of them take a particular joy in going about this in ways that make them think they’ve pulled a fast one on everybody else.

      Spoiler: they make terrible boyfriend/girlfriend material.

      1. some1*

        Yeah, I can see that, but I there’s also some desperation involved when you get fired that’s a part of this situation. We can all look at this from the outside and realize that hiring a lawyer isn’t going to help here, but we also aren’t the one’s who just lost our paycheck.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          In these cases, the firing becomes “proof” that he was right all along. The employer was going to deny his vacation and fire him anyway. So he was right. (NOT)

        2. neverjaunty*

          Hiring a lawyer isn’t the problem. The problem is the boyfriend’s entire pattern of behavior – which apparently is including ignoring the lawyer’s advice when it wasn’t what he wanted to hear.

    3. CA Admin*

      I have that quality too, which is why I think this is exactly what happened. I know it’s not a healthy response though, so I don’t let myself act on it, even though it makes me super uncomfortable!

      1. Observer*

        I know it’s not a healthy response though, so I don’t let myself act on it, even though it makes me super uncomfortable!

        Which means that you are an adult who acts like an adult. Being an adult is not always so easy, not matter what kids think. I hope it gets easier for you with time.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I think it comes from one’s feeling of not being in power. “If I do things the straightforward way, it will not go well for me. I must find another path to insure I get X that I need.”

        Alcoholic homes foster a lot of this type of convoluted thinking. I am sure there are other examples of how one gets this type of thinking instilled in them. A belief starts that if one does as one is supposed to do, it will blow up in her face, therefore must find a back way into the solution.

        1. Andrea*

          YES, this. I came here to say this—my parents are alcoholics. (Not former or recovering, just active alcoholics.) Believe me when I say that being raised by alcoholics, even really high-functioning ones like my parents, screws up the mind/emotions/coping abilities in many ways, sometimes unexpected ones. And I’ve had years and years of therapy, and I’ve gotten better, and I STILL have to fight those impulses—especially the impulse to lie when the truth would be just as easy, and even though I don’t WANT to lie—on a regular basis. (And it seems like every year or so, another result of my upbringing crops up, and then I have to deal with that, and it all seems never-ending.) When I read this letter, I immediately wondered if the OP’s boyfriend’s upbringing was similar to mine. I am still appalled at his actions, though, and I cannot imagine any scenario where I would commit them, even if my first instinct was to do so, I have had enough therapy and practice not to proceed that way. But I do understand that way of thinking.

      3. Honeybee*

        I have that quality too, but my anxiety over uncertainty would’ve driven me not to book anything expensive and non-refundable before I had official proof that I had the time off.

    4. Viva L*

      Thank you for posting this. I used to be the kind of person (teen years) that would “double down” on a lie I had created to get myself out of a bad situation – to me, that’s the only course of action that makes sense – if you’re going to go through the trouble to create the lie (or really to get what you want), then your best option is to be committed to it. Also, I believed it myself sometimes! So in that regard (the doubling down) I have some sympathy for the boyfriend. Heck, I even understand the initial contraption to get what he wanted. But, my sympathy doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be consequences.
      As I matured (and frankly, simply got caught) I realized that people are MUCH more willing to work with you if you tell them the truth when you screw up – but more importantly, I learned better judgment overall of anticipating responses and taking a moment to consider my options whenever I did get stuck. It helped me make better decisions initially, and then better able to fix simple miscalculations.

      In any case- thank you for posting this perspective.

      1. Abyssal*

        Yeah, this was me too. It got really screwed up in my head growing up because I went from living with a reasonable parent who would take honesty into account when doling out punishments to one who did not care one little bit if you were honest, if you did something wrong you got very, very heavily punished without any real distinction between “was honest and fessed up” and “did everything possible to hide what happened, got caught anyway.” So for several years I wound up getting “better to try and hide it even if you fail” pounded into my head, and then had to unlearn it once I got out of that situation :\ It was not a good thing at the beginning of my work experience.

        1. AnonAcademic*

          Your comment really hit home for me. Growing up my mother was very overwhelmed and would discipline my brother and I in ways that were unpredictable and not always fair (for example, if his punishment for something was “no TV tonight,” I couldn’t watch TV either). I learned that trying to do the right thing or making a small mistake (i.e. being five minutes late coming home) often got me harshly punished anyway so I resorted to mostly doing what I wanted and then lying about it. It became a game of how much bad behavior I could cover up before I got caught. At my first job I acted similarly a few times, with several “lies of omission” to avoid getting in trouble for what in retrospect were not huge or unforgivable errors. I’m still embarrassed that I acted that way.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Thank you for writing this. You have just showed me what a family member (FM) is going through right now. FM lived with her dad who had nothing predicable about him except his anger. And now FM is off somewhere… out there…..no one knows.

            I am glad things settled for you. There are good people out there and I hope the rest of your life proves that to you.

            1. Brisvegan*

              Hope your FM is OK.

              If it helps, I grew up in that sort of home and have turned things around for myself. Sometimes space and time for recovery from the abuse requires separation from the situation.

      2. Chameleon*

        I was like this when young as well; I felt like as long as I never admitted I lied in the first place they couldn’t “prove” anything and therefore I wouldn’t really be a liar. (Brains are weird.)

        I still have enough of this in me that my first thought when reading was “why didn’t he just claim that the medical procedure had to be done in Cuba, and get a doctor to write one out for him while he was there?” :)

      3. hbc*

        You’ve reminded me of a huge project I procrastinated on in 6th grade and I insisted that I turned it in and it got lost. I convinced myself it was a believable lie, so I actually did feel angry and betrayed when I wasn’t believed. It wasn’t that I thought I’d done the work, it’s that they really should have believed me. (No, they shouldn’t have. What 12 year old can do a 2 month project without her family seeing a hint of it.)

        This may be the first time I’ve actually admitted I didn’t do the work.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          You were 12. What we do as children only counts if we have not learned from it as adults.

    5. Ad Astra*

      I have to fight this kind of thinking in my own mind, so I’m betting you’re right about how he perceives situations. Any time something negative happens to me, even if it’s my own fault, my first instinct is to find a technicality that will switch the decision to my favor. I’ve matured enough that I can keep those thoughts to myself and eventually move on to “What’s the best way to handle this?” but it’s not my default setting. And, considering how many “Is that legal?” questions Alison gets, I’m probably not the only person prone to that kind of thinking.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      It’s a very interesting and insightful possibility. But of course, it doesn’t mitigate what he did. Basically, he falsified a record and that is a fireable offense everywhere I’ve ever worked. (That I know of–some exjobs would not have surprised me if they let certain people get away with anything.)

    7. Sunshine*

      My example of this was an employee who made up a deceased grandmother and forged an obituary. These people exist.

  26. BananaPants*

    The boyfriend’s story has holes so big you can drive through them. You just don’t tell your boss that you want to take vacation time for a certain time period and then come back with having a medical procedure. And then forging a freaking doctor’s note? Seriously?

    I do wonder if the boyfriend will be able to get the three years of work certified. For professional licensure in engineering in the US, for example, one has to have a certain number of professional references and documentation of the experience record being used to apply to take the exam. If one gets fired for cause and then burns the bridge by digging in their heels and contacting an attorney re: legal action, I don’t think that employer’s going to be too keen on signing the license application…anyways, I have no idea if this is OP’s boyfriend’s situation but I do know this is the wrong path to take.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the employer fights the unemployment claim, too. This could easily be considered willful misconduct. I know of people who’ve been denied unemployment for far less, and this is a state that’s known for being friendlier to claimants than employers.

    1. Judy*

      For the PE in my state, the reference document has questions asking for not only a description of the technical competence of the applicant but also a description of the character and integrity of the applicant. There is also an additional comment section. I would expect that a description of this would cause an issue with being approved to sit for the test.

      If the OP’s boyfriend is working toward a PE, I think the 3 years of work at this company is not going to count, unless they can find former employees of the company that can vouch for the work, but not the end of employment. So they may have to only use, for example, 2.5 years of the 3 years.

  27. Chriama*

    I’m wondering what details have been left out of the story:
    – was the BF generally a good employee?
    – how was his relationship with his boss, hr and management before this incident?
    – what actually happened with the vacation rejection (did the boss misinterpret the verbal confirmation, did the system auto-reject the request), and how did the BF follow up (and quite frankly, did he follow up before constructing this crazy scheme)?
    – how is the BF in other areas of his life? Is this a younger guy with maturity issues, or an older guy with integrity issues?
    – why would the company refuse to certify his hours? Do they have to testify to his performance as an employee or just rubber-stamp that he showed up at the office every day from 9-5 for the past 3 years. If the latter, are they allowed to refuse? I think refusing to verify strictly factual information that harms a person’s chances of future employment is not technically legal, although I would recommend and informal conversation (with an email follow-up!) before sending a letter from his lawyer [and quite frankly, the way this letter is presented biases me against the BF and makes me think he’s the type to go nuclear instead of trying to work things out reasonably first]

    1. Ineloquent*

      I’m also wondering if OP has all the details of the boyfriend’s story. It’s entirely possible that some items have been left out or modified to make his plight seem more sympathetic to her. To jump to such a big lie – complete with props – makes me inclined to believe that he holds the truth cheap and is perfectly willing to bend it regularly to suit his needs. And that is why I’d fire him, if I was his manager.

    2. OP HERE !!!!*

      There was tension between him as his boss at the time this whole thing happened. Back in MAy, he recieved a verbal warning. He has been with the company about three years. The verbal warning was due to the fact that too many of his case notes were incomplete. Prior to receiving the warning, he expressed to his boss that he was too overwhelmed with all the special projects he was being assigned, and couldn’t keep up with everything else. When the director did a random review, she noticed the incomplete cases, and questioned the boss who then threw him under the bus, likely to save herself.

      In the time we’ve been dating, this is the only time I’ve questioned his integrity in any way. I agree that he’s old enough to know better (early 40s) but felt trapped in the moment I guess. We have had no bumps in the relationship to date. I generally don’t see him a as liar or conniving person in any way. Anybody could have a one-off, it just so happens that his cost him his job.

      PTO denial wasn’t automatic. His boss checked off “rejected”, signed it, and gave it back to him. He asked about it, but not sure how indepth that conversation went. She simply said it’s denied due to the timing, and there was tension between them at that time, due to an earlier incident in May.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        “Anybody could have a one-off, it just so happens that his cost him his job.”
        Elsewhere you write “Anyone could make a bad decision in a moment of uncertainty.”

        Ok. It’s true that everybody lies and makes bad decisions sometimes. Yes, I have called in “sick” when technically I “stayed up too late reading fanfiction and now I’m tiiiired”. But I don’t see this as a “one-off” or a “moment of uncertainty”. He FORGED A DOCTOR’S NOTE, he didn’t just say “oh hey I’m not feeling great”, and when called on it he refused to discuss it. And yeah, it does suck that the boss rejected it after they’d discussed it earlier, but the reaction is totally disproportionate and WAY more unethical. I know you don’t support what he did, and I don’t know you so I’m not in any place to comment on your relationship, but I would caution against characterizing your boyfriend’s actions as something that “anyone might have done.”

  28. Maraca*

    If I were the OP I would seriously reconsider my relationship with the boyfriend if he fails to learn from this situation.

  29. Kat*

    I’d think long and hard about a future with this man.

    He has zero integrity. He is a liar. He lies when he is denied something he wants. He forged a dr’s note, which….is a felony in some states (probably most states). He isnt backing down when this is his fault. At the very least he has A LOT of growing up to do. His actions speak to a bigger problem within him. The fact that he is trying to fight this with HIPAA shows that he doesnt care that he is wrong.

    Like it or not, his reputation will eventually tarnish yours.

    1. Rebecca*

      I totally agree with this, and the other commenters who mentioned the character issue. A future with this guy will involve more problems than you should have to deal with. Walk away now.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        this is the kind of guy that tries to blame the hackers for his wife finding out about his Ashley Madison account.

    2. Samantha*

      “He has zero integrity. He’s a liar.”

      Wow. What an amazing conclusion to draw from what situation with zero context. I’m surprised Alison is letting this comment stand. This is a pile-on. We know the bf was wrong to lie to his boss about his absence. BUT he could be a perfectly nice guy. How about we all acknowledge that we’re not perfect either and not demonize this poor guy for one situation, okay? :)

        1. Ineloquent*

          One situation with multiple complicated lies (which required forethought and props to support) as well as multiple missed opportunities to come clean. I’m pretty ok with the ‘this guy is a liar with no integrity’ label, personally.

          It is a bit of a pile on, but there are still people who seem to be ok-ish with what he did, so I understand people continuing to try to drive the focal point home.

      1. neverjaunty*

        “But he was good to his mother!” Okay.

        One: this isn’t one time; this is a pattern of behavior stemming from a single problem, and two: it’s pretty egregious behavior.

      2. V.V.*

        Yeah I know, Samantha.

        Let’s all just take him out back and flog him. I am convinced it would be kinder. It reminds me of certain people in my family who thinks I should be eternally punished for the mistakes I made even as a child.

  30. some1*

    I am noticing the parralels with this letter and the LW yesterday who got caught calling a supervisor a name to her coworker. “I wasn’t wrong for doing what I did; YOU’RE wrong for trying to call me out on it.”

  31. Florida*

    I just want to say that he should apply for unemployment compensation. He will likely be denied, but sometimes companies don’t contest it. The worst case is that he will be denied, so there is no harm in applying.

  32. some1*

    “He claims that his HIPAA rights were violated because there is a law saying that the employer must have authorization from the employee before attempting to verify a medical note.”

    Did anyone catch this? Please explain to your BF that even if this was true (it’s not), the company could have still fired him for refusing to sign such an authorization. This isn’t like the criminal case getting thrown out of court because the cops didn’t have a warrant.

    1. Algae*

      Actually, that line tripped something for me. HIPAA is a US thing, correct? But the BF went to Cuba?

      I wasn’t aware there were US flights to Cuba or that citizens had been cleared to go there yet. (I could be wrong. I often am.) And I know there’s a ton of ways to get to Cuba, but they’re all kind of sketchy with the truth-details. If he was going, it’s usually enough details to be seen to ahead of time that a manager would be aware of something being weird before the trip.

      I’m not wording this well and I need to go, so I hope you all can parse my meaning.

      1. Kat*

        He probably lied and said the medical procedure was in the US. The letter said work tried to contact him with quick questions during the days off but was unable to reach him. Work became suspicious and called the dr office to verify the note was legitimate. The dr office said they had no patient by that name, which doesnt violate HIPAA.

        He returns home, work busts him and fires him. He decides to fight it because liars cannot stand being called a liar.

  33. Florida*

    I’m not an attorney, but I don’t think it would be illegal for an employer to ask a doctor to verify. It would be illegal for the doctor to answer.

    But as was previously mentioned, this doctor is not bound by that because he didn’t have a doctor-patient relationship with the person.

    Again, this is based on my common sense interpretation of the law not any sort of legal training.

    1. Honeybee*

      You’re right. From HHS:

      The Privacy Rule does not prevent your supervisor, human resources worker or others from asking you for a doctor’s note or other information about your health if your employer needs the information to administer sick leave, workers’ compensation, wellness programs, or health insurance. However, if your employer asks your health care provider directly for information about you, your provider cannot disclose the information in response without your authorization. Covered health care providers must have your authorization to disclose this information to your employer, unless other laws require them to disclose it.

      However, the key there is authorization. If an employee asks for a note for an employer to prove sick leave, the employee is essentially giving authorization for the doctor to disclose PHI to the employer (namely, that the doctor has seen the patient/employee). If the employer calls to confirm information that is already in the note, the doctor’s not necessarily violating HIPAA – he already has authorization to release that information.

  34. a*

    Hypothetical: what if, instead of a non-refundable trip, the guy was trying to go on a job interview? What is the ethical thing to do if the employer won’t grant sick time without a doctor’s note, and won’t grant vacation time unless requested more than two weeks in advance?

    1. fposte*

      A full week off? You ask if you can take it unpaid for personal reasons, and if they won’t let you you either Skype or quit.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I think most employers would understand if an emergency came up (I once called in sick to an interview). It gets a little more gray area if someone says, “Oh, sure, I’ll get PTO for that day,” and then doesn’t put in for it in time, which I think makes a candidate look careless. But most interviews can be rescheduled with proper notice and level of mortification.

  35. ANON1234*

    Presumably, if he traveled to Cuba this OP wouldn’t be in the US…?? So would HIPPA even apply (not that is really makes any difference in this story/his excuse)?

        1. fposte*

          Actually, they could go to Cuba even before that; you just had to go with a special package and fly from outside the US.

    1. CMT*

      What are you even talking about? If his job and his doctor and his residence are in the U.S. it matters not at all where his vacation was.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        That seems a bit harsh. It was just a misunderstanding. They were questioning if HIPAA even applied because they assumed that USians can’t go to Cuba, therefore (to them) the boyfriend isn’t a USian, and therefore HIPAA doesn’t apply

    2. OP HERE !!!!*

      This happened in the US and yes he’s a citizen. The purpose of the trip was business unrelated to his job. He owns land there and the dates were coordinated between a number of different contractors, his lawyer, and a business manager. Moving everything at the last minute probably would have been a logistics nightmare.

  36. Nobody*

    I would love to see a post about the rights of employers and employees when it comes to medical leave, perhaps with the expert opinions of Allison’s lawyer guest-posters. A lot of people at my company (and probably elsewhere) have confusion and misconceptions about things like HIPAA and FMLA. For example, I have a coworker who believes that if he calls in sick, the company can ask what’s wrong, require a doctor’s note, and make him see the company doctor, but if he says his wife and/or kids are sick, the company cannot legally ask any questions (the implication being that if you want a day off, no questions ask, just say your spouse or kids are sick). Another coworker believes that the company can request a doctor’s note if you’re sick, but can’t make you disclose the diagnosis. Another coworker had a dispute with the company because he wanted to use paid sick leave to have surgery but not count it as FMLA time (he was planning to use unpaid FMLA time later in the year to care for his wife after her planned surgery), but the company wanted to count it simultaneously as FMLA time and paid sick leave.

    It’s surprisingly difficult to find straight answers about these things, so it would be great to have a post with some reliable information!

    1. Honeybee*

      I agree with you; people have so many misconceptions about HIPAA. For example, if you are hospitalized it’s permissible under HIPAA for the hospital to release that you are there and your room number if someone calls to ask about you by name. I learned this as a residential hall director who frequently visited hospitalized students; we would find out that they were transported to the hospital by our on-campus EMT service, and we’d call the hospital to see if they were still there and whether they had been assigned a room number before we headed up there (to prevent heading to the hospital only to wait if they were still getting x-rays or whatnot). We also had an agreement with the hospital for us not to be counted against the number of visitors the student could have at once, which was 2, so that we could get in there and do our jobs – which was checking on the student and finding out if they wanted us to notify their family. That sounds terrible, but it’s not a violation of HIPAA!

      In the meantime, the Department of Health and Human Services has a page about HIPAA and employers:


  37. Tara*

    Yikes, I feel bad for this guy. I understand that lying is an integrity issue, but I don’t think people realize just how much of a survival mechanism it can be. As a child, being screamed and sworn at and threatened for any mistake I made led to a (fairly reasonable, imo) tendency to just flatly deny responsibility for anything I was accused of, and at times create ridiculous alibis for myself. I’ve outgrown it now, but some people don’t.

    1. Observer*

      It’s a good thing you’ve outgrown it. It only seems like a survival tactic. In most of life, it’s a very dysfunctional way to operate. While there are exceptions where lying is really the only practical course, that should never be the default, and not just because of the integrity issue, which is huge on it’s own.

      1. Samantha*

        Observer, did you have the same childhood as Tara? As the OP’s bf? If you didn’t, you can’t judge. Denying responsibility can still be a survival tactic, even if you’ve never used it as such.

        1. Brisvegan*

          I did have a similar childhood to Tara. I had screaming, swearing etc, but also beatings that left serious bruises and that included being kicked, punched by a former successful boxer and whipped with electrical cords. Lying as a little kid was a survival tactic, but I abandoned it in my teens.

          Tara’s explanation is background, but IMHO very much not a free pass for the OP’s BF.

          Lying, I hate now. A bad childhood doesn’t mean you have to be a lifelong liar. I won’t let my abusive Dad destroy my character like that. Honesty always works better, or at least leaves me feeling like a decent human who can take their lumps for mistakes. Your boss is not going to be your abusive parent. As a kid who was abused, you have to find a way to act in ways that are reasonable in a workplace, or take the consequences.

          BF’s actions look very different to me than the reflexive lies of an abuse victim avoiding trouble. They look like the deliberate frauds of deeply dishonest and selfish person. You don’t accidentally tell a deliberate lie about a medical procedure, forge a doctor’s letterhead and signature, threaten HIPAA reprisals and then make an appointment with a lawyer to double down all in a few seconds of panic. This all took planning and time. That all looks like a liar and bully who wants his own way and will do anything to get it or someone so disfunctional that you can’t trust him. If this is the result of abuse, he is on the slope to being abusive himself, by denying responsibility and trying to bully the employer and possibly the doctor (HIPAA statements).

          As I said above, whatever the motivation for the initial lie about a medical procedure (which was still very stupid), how do you trust this guy not to try forgery as his go-to plan to get himself out of trouble? What will he do if he doesn’t get the customer to sign an order form? What if he stuffs up and a client won’t give written instructions agreeing with his actions? What if he has financial problems and there are corporate financial resources that he could access with some forgery and ingenuity? Whose signature and letterhead gets forged next? Who gets threatened if he gets caught? The employer has no reason to trust this guy.

          If he did react stupidly as a result of a disfunctional childhood, maybe this will be a belated wake up call that he needs. If this is just a sociopathic get what I want or lie/threaten MO, then I hope OP is going to be OK and that they don’t end up out of pocket (credit/mortgage/lease problems etc) or worse.

          1. Brisvegan*

            This is very much not intended as a slight to Tara or any disagreement with her main point.

            I agree with her point about survival, but just think this guy is beyond that in his level of planning and later threats.

            I also don’t mean to suggest that any other survivors of abuse should have had the same timeline of recovery or adaptive behaviours that I had. I totally get the impulses imprinted by abuse and that many people can’t understand if they haven’t experienced abuse. I totally get that we all find our own ways to deal.

          2. OP HERE !!!!*

            No history of childhood abuse of any kind. He was raised by a single parent with three siblings. I will add in that in his culture there is widespread corruption and people are used to doing whatever it takes to get ahead or to get what you want. It’s the norm there, and morals often get put to the side.

            And we dont live together or share any finances, so that’s not an issue right now.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Another example of what I was talking about above. If this describes BF then he has lots to think about.
      Yes, it is definitely a survival mechanism. One of the first things to encounter out in the world is that not everyone reacts in that manner. It takes a while to train the brain that not everyone blows up like a volcano.

      1. Tara*

        “It takes a while to train the brain that not everyone blows up like a volcano.”

        This is spot-on. I remember realizing as a child that it really didn’t matter WHAT I did, it would be wrong. I never learned to distinguish between degrees of “wrong”. To this day, lying and crying are intuitively to me the same level of offense. Obviously you can train yourself to BEHAVE the proper way (not lie), but I still don’t have the BELIEF (that lying is a terrible thing to do). And at 8 years old, I understood that being screamed at for trying to sweep the floor because I “did it wrong” the day after being screamed at not “taking initiative” with a follow-up of “you don’t sweep, you don’t mop, you’re useless!” was completely unfair. It wasn’t any worse to lie and say that I wasn’t trying to sweep at all, he must have started and then forgotten; he probably wouldn’t believe me, but it would be the same level of anger and I had a miniscule chance of getting out of a 3 hour yelling session.

        He was also a huge fan of telling me that honesty was the most important thing, while continuing to lose it at honest mistakes. It didn’t matter what he said, owning up to something would just result in the same explosion; lying about it could mean escape. I still have a hard time believing people who pay lip service to the “As long as you’re honest…” talk.

        1. Brisvegan*

          Sorry to hear you went through this, Tara.

          Your abuser sounds a lot like mine. Nothing was ever right, because they were looking for an excuse to yell or hit, to get that adrenalin rush of anger, not because it was ever about us.

          To anyone in this situation: As a now 40-something person, I can tell you that it gets better and you can make a kind, decent, good life away from the abuse. If you want, you can be a good and decent parent and partner, without the same abusive habits, or a good and whole person, happily alone.

          Sending you internet hugs, if you want them.

          1. Tara*

            Thank you, and I accept your internet hugs if you will accept mine. I’m only 6 months out of the house, so I’m still struggling a bit to overcome old behaviours. He never actually hit me, only threatened to, so I don’t know if abuser is the right word, but it definitely taught me a certain way to get by that I really need to unlearn.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              I’m not a psychologist, but I think if he was threatening to hit you, he was an abuser. And from what you described, he was an abuser. You don’t have to talk yourself out of accepting that you were abused because someone else was treated worse. What you went through would scar anyone.

            2. Brisvegan*

              Hugs accepted.

              Three hour yelling is abuse. It is emotional abuse and can do even more of a number on you than physical abuse, because it is hard to point to something socially easily recognisable as abuse. How can people who have not been through it understand that “I got yelled at” means “I was capriciously and cruelly verbally abused for hours for not guessing the position of today’s deliberately moved goal posts?” My Dad did that to the rest of the household, including my Mum. It made it easy for me to say I was abused, because hitting fits social scripts for abuse, but my sisters had a longer road to see that his rages to them were not OK. It took Mum 30 years to leave.

              That sort of emotional abuse is intended to give the abuser dominance and the satisfaction of the anger. (Studies show their heartrate actually goes down when they are allegedly “out of control”.) It is in no way a normal or reasonable response to a child not sweeping perfectly or any other possible child’s behaviour. You did nothing (no matter what) that justified that sort of cruelty. (Seriously, I have been angry at my kids, but simply cannot imagine anything, even crimes, that would make me berate them for 3 hours.)

              6 months is very new and very hard to be just out of such a difficult situation. Best of luck with everything. Hope you find kindness and support.

              Maybe consider therapy if you have resources. Otherwise, even communities online, like the one over at Captain Awkward, can be a help in re-calibrating and recovering.

              I left my childhood home over 25 years ago. I can say from experience that it definitely gets better. You will slowly reset the maladaptive thoughts and patterns. You are strong and awesome to see the problem and survive. Also, if it helps, abuse survivors don’t have to repeat the same patterns. You can make a better life and be a much better parent, if you want kids. (It’s also OK not to want kids, of course!). You are kind to help people understand here. You just keep being your awesome self.

        2. Seattle Writer Gal*


          This was exactly my childhood. And yes, I learned that sometimes it really does pay to lie.

    3. OP HERE !!!!*

      No history of childhood abuse of any kind. He was raised by a single parent with three siblings. I will add in that in his culture there is widespread corruption and people are used to doing whatever it takes to get ahead or to get what you want. It’s the norm there, and morals often get put to the side.

      1. Mephyle*

        This is a really important data point. People who didn’t grow up in a culture like that may find it hard to understand the mindset – in a way it’s parallel to the way people who didn’t grow up under abuse etc.
        From our point of view, it’s putting morals to the side, but there is a morality of looking out for one and one’s own (family).

    1. Kat*

      He would’ve charmed his way out of it, not acted like a petulant teenager that got caught in a lie.

      1. Log Lady*

        Truth. I should have said did he get the idea from watching Ferris Bueller, but, he probably did.

  38. schnapps*

    You know, I get that the leave system might be screwed up or that the boyfriend might have been confused, but in my books, that’s besides the point.

    He lied to his employer on purpose. Instead of being mature about it, talking to his manager about it, he decided to lie and he got caught. If I were that employer and an employee who was recently denied leave suddenly called in sick on those days, I’d be suspicious too.

    It doesn’t matter if the leave system is messed up. He knowingly deceived his employer and that is unacceptable.

    1. some1*

      Yeah, I’d have more respect for the guy for quitting with no notice if they didn’t let him take the vacation time, tbh.

  39. mockingbird2081*

    I work in healthcare and train on HIPAA. The truth is, a doctors office even when directly called does not have to legally tell anyone that a patient is seen in the office. I have had many calls from people asking if “so and so” is a patient most of the time I don’t tell them. The only time I tell a random person on the phone if someone is or was a patient is the police or the coroner and I’m going to make you prove to me that you are who you say you are. So, though not directly related to the letter. If you are manager calling to verify an employee saw a doctor you might get an no even if it is a yes.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Same deal at our local hospital. If you call to find out if someone is there, the answer is no.

      1. doreen*

        I call a lot of places covered by HIPAA to see if someone is a patient as part of my job. And in my experience, the answer is almost never “no”. Either the person has signed the consent to disclose information to me (in which case the answer is usually yes) , or the person hasn’t signed a consent and the answer is ” We can’t give out any information.

        However, I know from experience that if you fax or show a health care provider a note that s/he purportedly wrote, HIPAA does not prevent the provider from disclosing that it was forged. IANAL, but it probably also doesn’t prevent them from answering “Did you write a note excusing Apollo from work (or clearing him to go back?” Any protected information was disclosed by Apollo when he gave the employer the note, not when the provider verifies that it’s legitimate.

      2. Judy*

        I believe our hospital gives a choice on admission what will be released when a call comes in. For example, are you a patient, what is your condition and room number are all progressive options.

      3. Honeybee*

        That is because of the hospital’s policy, not because of HIPAA. The Privacy Rule of HIPAA does not prevent hospitals from confirming that a patient is at the hospital as long as the person calling asks for the patient by name. And it’s opt-out, not opt-in – the patient has to specifically request that the hospital not release that information, not the other way around.


    2. BananaPants*

      Yeah, the only time I’ve needed a doctor’s note was when the short term disability administrator called to authorize my claim after giving birth. I not only needed to have my OB sign my employer’s FMLA certification but I had to sign a form that my OB’s office kept on file authorizing his staff to talk to the disability administrator to verify details about the delivery.
      We’ve recently had to take one of our kids to some specialists and each one has a form authorizing specific people with whom they can discuss her medical care, even the daycare director and school nurse. Anyone else not authorized won’t even be told that she’s a patient.

    3. Honeybee*

      Why would you say “no” as opposed to “we cannot disclose that information one way or the other”? Because “no” could end up in a situation like this, with the difference being if your patient really did see that doctor they could unnecessarily be in big trouble?

  40. Ruth (UK)*

    What his company did was sucky (deny him the time off after giving unofficial verbal agreement) however what he did was obviously far worse. It’s true they did a sucky thing but for him to use that as an excuse for the bad-ness of his thing (the forgery) is like saying “yeah, it’s true I keyed your car and trashed your house, but you called me a rude name first so it’s your fault!”

    ps. I love analogies.

    1. schnapps*


      I forgot to put that in my comment. If I were this guy’s girlfriend, I’d run far and fast.

    2. Zillah*

      Well, I’m glad we’re not jumping to conclusions about the OP’s relationship based on a tiny sliver of information about it!

  41. Lobby Noise*

    All I know is that there are doctors out there who will write you a medical note for anything you want. Just give him some symptoms and how much time off you need.

    I’m wondering if the girlfriend will stay with him?

  42. BalticFog*

    Just an observation : every time the op writes in behalf a boyfriend or a husband or an adult child, it’s an almost guaranteed mess. If my significant other had an issue I would direct him to this site and at most proofread his letter if needed. Just speaks of the op’s boyfriend’s immaturity imo.

      1. OP HERE !!!!*

        He’s not into online blogs or social media and didn’t even know this site existed until I told him. I wrote in because I’m a regular reader, not because he’s too immature to do so himself.

  43. Shabang*

    The OP wrote:
    “His PTO time didn’t renew until July 1st, so he knew the request would be denied if he submitted the official request for time off before that date.”

    So the OP’s boyfriend didn’t even try to submit earlier. Did he even know that it would get shot down? We don’t know because he didn’t try. And what penalty do you get for getting your request denied?

    If he had put the request in anyway (maybe even right after he talked with his boss and got the “verbal” and that the boss would still had fresh in his mind) it might have gotten shot down – but he’d also have a record that he did meet the policy for leave requests. He also could maximize the potential of his request by attaching a note explaining the situation – sometimes when others know whats up they can sympathize with the situation and work things out for/with you. And even if that failed – at least he might not have bought the tickets or time shifted to when he could take the time off.

    As for the forged Doctor’s note and the subsequent responsibility and blame shifting, NO.


  44. OP HERE !!!!*

    Fortunately for him, he has multiple streams of income so the greatest lost was the hours not the paycheck. We also discussed the fact that he tends to be riskier in career/business decisions than I am because he has more options, so to speak. I have one job and if I lose it, thats 100% of my income gone. We dont currently live together or share finances in any way. And no, I don’t plan on leaving him anytime soon. Anyone could make a bad decision in a moment of uncertainty.

    1. Hlyssande*

      I’m glad he has other options! I hope everything works out for the best in the long run.

  45. Middle Name Jane*

    Wow. I know the OP said she was going to stick by him..but wow. This level of lying is a deal breaker for me, and I would end the relationship. I don’t want to be involved with a person who thinks it’s okay to go to such lengths to lie and be deceitful.

  46. Fawn*

    As a manager I do completely understand the point of view coming from the majority that forging the doctors note was ethically wrong and not the smartest thing he could have done.
    However, it seems to me that everyone fails to take into consideration that he had been verbally promised time off that he had a right to, banked on, and was devastated and disheartened at the fact he was losing it. I am not sure how good of an employee he was, but I have a similar thing happening at work right now! My stores GM (I am just an assistant) works really hard for the restaurant, and has for nearly 3 years. The company has recently (within the last two weeks) been sold to another owner, and the previous owners were so tight on money, and cut the staff down to 3 managers all together and 8 employees total, that he has been the buildings maintenance, plumber, painter, and is the ONLY reason the place is still running. His boss, the area manager, is the same as she was before and knew he had a wedding this Saturday to attend, and officiate. He has been planning it for months and sense I work a second job on weekends, and the other manager is opening, he has worked (and kept the area coach informed) to promote a cashier who’s first night alone was this Saturday. The Area Manager/Coach has been completely okay with it until tonight when he faxed her the employee change papers when she emailed and told him she needed to do a close with her first and she should be ready by next Thursday. He wouldn’t even have known about it tonight had he not sent those papers! What is he to do now? Destroy a couples wedding plans because of a broken promise from an employer he has given everything but his soul to for the last three years? Or lose his job to go?

    When did it become okay for employees to give their everything to these companies with no loyalty back? The OP’s boyfriend may have made a poor choice, but it was one he should never have had to make in the first place! And per usual, there is no accountability for that breach of turst; just the employees.

  47. Fawn*

    Breach of trust*
    Sorry, I was in a bit of a rant!

    My point is that everything isn’t always black and white when it comes to these things. What the OP’s boyfriend did did not make it right, however, I don’t know what I would have done in that situation myself! I do NOT make enough money to just throw away the cost of airfare tickets. Nor do I get to travel enough to simply let go of a long anticipated trip, especially if the reason I am losing it is due to a broken promise from a manager/employer. I work really hard for my employers/managers, and am held accountable for what I promise.
    If I say I will be at work, I am expected to be there. If I say I will cover a shift, I am expected to cover it. If I say I will close the restaurant and run it, that is what I do. And if my employer makes promises then I expect them to be just as upheld too! Is that not the common sense approach?

  48. Shanen*

    I think he is lucky to not have to work for an employer who doesn’t care about giving time off to an employee who gave a heads up to the employer a month ahead of time, but due to “strict time off policies” for time off per year and 2 week approval, and on and on is just completely drama, ignorant, human rights violation, pride of power over another and unethical. It is a shame that employers these days intimidate and make their employees fear job loss by tactics of intimidation such as to act towards the employee that they are not a person, but just someone who can be bullied and expendable. I worked for an employer for five years with hundreds of employees daily doing same job that was just like this, all policy and profit, no humanity, quiting was the best thing I did and If I were ever asked to choose between homelessness or working for an employer like that again, I’d choose the homelessness. Unfortunately, it appears that all jobs and careers now days are like that, always looking for a reason to push an employee around and never see what the employees accomplish for them.

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