is my employee lying about needing bereavement leave?

A reader writes:

Our company’s bereavement policy is pretty standard. For immediate family (parent, sibling, child, spouse), we have three days from time of passing to the funeral service, and one day of bereavement for non-immediate family (grandparent, aunt, uncle.) I’ve had to use it once myself and had no issues — when I returned, my director asked for an obituary, I sent him a link to the online obituary and no further questions were asked. In another case, a relative was not deemed as being eligible for bereavement time, and I was told that I would need to use PTO time for the absence.

Now, I am a supervisor of my department of about 20 people. I’ve had to apply for bereavement time for two employees since taking over, and it was as simple as my own experience. Both were one-day leaves, and they got the obituary to me as soon as they returned.

About a month ago, an employee, “Jane,” came to me to say that her stepfather was in hospice and asked what our leave policy was. I confirmed with HR that a stepfather was eligible for the same amount of leave as a parent (I felt odd about asking, but I wanted to make sure that I understood the policy). I forwarded the information to Jane, including letting her know my own experience of getting the link to the obituary to my boss.

On a Thursday night, I got a text from Jane saying that her stepfather only had a few hours to live and that she was going to be with him. I gave her my condolences and asked her to stay in touch so that I would know how to schedule around her absence. My next communication from Jane was Monday morning after the start of her shift. She said that her stepfather has passed over the weekend and the service was the next day so she would be back on Wednesday. Again, I gave her my condolences and assured her that we’d cover her work for her.

While she was gone on Tuesday, Payroll asked me for a copy of the obituary since I had put in for her bereavement time to have started on Friday. I told them that I didn’t have it yet, but I’m sure that I would get it from Jane when she came in the next day. To try to confirm this, I sent a text to Jane which went unanswered. I wasn’t too worried about this since she was at a funeral after all.

The next day, Jane returned and was rather flustered when I asked her for a copy of the obituary. I apologized and told her that I wasn’t trying to make her upset but that payroll needed it in order to pay her for the days she had been out. By the end of the day, she had forwarded me an email from a secretary at the funeral home that stated “We apologize that the obituary is not ready. Please find the attached note to certify that Jane Smith was at our location.” The attached note looked like a doctor’s excuse note and stated that Jane had been at their location on Friday, Monday, and Tuesday regarding Mr. Jones arrangements. I forwarded this to Payroll and figured that the case was closed.

Payroll contacted me the next day to say that the note was fine to certify the dates of services but still needed something that proved the date of passing (not on the note) as well as her relationship to the deceased. After checking the funeral home’s website to see if the obituary had been posted yet, I mentioned to Jane what Payroll had said about the note. Jane was immediately defensive and then let it slip that he hadn’t died until Saturday. I told her that if he hadn’t died until Saturday, then Friday would not be counted as bereavement time since we only cover from the time of passing to the service. She was upset and said, “I don’t know why you can’t just take that note I already gave you. How was I supposed to know that he wasn’t going to die until Saturday?” I was a little taken aback by this. I also had to take time off so that I could be with a loved one during their final hours, and I counted that as well worth the PTO time spent.

I suggested to Jane that she contact the funeral home again to see about the obituary or if they could provide any other documents relating to time of passing. I also went to see my director because I felt like I was getting in over my head.

I should mention at this point that Jane and my director don’t get along. We’ve had multiple issues with absenteeism with her. We accrue PTO time by number of hours worked, and it seems like whenever she has 8 hours saved up, she uses them right away even though i warn her against it. She had just enough time for one day at the time this happened. She’s also been caught in several ethical dilemmas, and was almost fired this fall when she was caught cheating on an aptitude test for a possible promotion. HR only decided to keep her because I had not specifically told her that she should not get help from others in that department on the test. Afterwards, Jane went to HR and said that my director had said a lot of hurtful and inflammatory things about her. I don’t know if it was true since I was on vacation at the time, but my director got in hot water.

So, I went to see my director about the missing obituary problem and the problem of the dates. He immediately erupts that she’s obviously lying and playing me for a fool. “Why wouldn’t a funeral home print an obituary before a funeral,” he demanded. Now I am feeling incredibly sheepish and uncertain. There is a part of me that does not want to believe that someone would lie about something as important as this. That same part feels incredibly sick about having to question someone about this. Another part of me just feels like I’m an idiot and she’s been playing me the whole time.

Now Jane has sent me a link to the county’s vital records sites that shows a death certificate (with date of passing) is being processed under the name that she has provided. I forwarded this down to payroll, but they have stated that this still doesn’t prove her relationship to the deceased — especially since neither she nor her mother share the same last name as the deceased. (I can think of multiple reasons for this in the modern age but none that help here). Payroll is willing to wait until Monday for an obituary.

What do I do? Should I contact the funeral home myself? I feel like I have bungled this terribly, but I’m not sure what I should have done differently. Am i just letting my own personal experience with loss get in the way?

The bigger issue than the bereavement situation is that you have an employee who you don’t trust, who has had multiple problems with absenteeism, has had several “ethical dilemmas,” and was caught cheating on a test for a promotion.

The obituary issue seems like the least of your worries.

In this specific situation, however, I’d be more concerned about mistreating someone who really may have just had a close relative die than I am about the possibility that she might get an extra bereavement day that she’s not entitled to. So personally, I’d let this go and just make sure she understands what’s required for bereavement leave going forward.

And then I’d watch her like an absolute hawk in the future, because someone with all the issues you’ve described is going to mess up again, and you want to spot it when she does. Totally aside from the current issue, she doesn’t sound like someone you should keep on your staff, and I’d keep your eyes open for the next time she demonstrates that.

But if your company won’t let you handle it that way and insists that you sort out the bereavement issue in some conclusive way, then all you can really do is tell Jane what the policy requires, specifically. An obituary that lists her or her mother as relatives? Something else? Find out what your company will accept, and then let Jane know.

I would not call the funeral home yourself — you really don’t want the story line among other employees to be “While Jane was mourning the death of a parent figure, Lucinda was doubting her story and calling the funeral home to ask questions.”

And you’ll probably have more credibility with your boss if you acknowledge that there are serious issues with Jane, totally aside from the current situation, and that you’re going to aggressively dealing with those going forward — to the point of firing her if they continue — but that you don’t think the possible/likely death of a family member is the time to take a stand.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 531 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’m putting this up here in the hope that people will see it before commenting. Since I’m assuming that the letter-writer doesn’t have control over her company’s bereavement leave, I want to ask people to stop piling on about the company’s policy and try to focus on advice that will be actionable for her. Thank you!

    (I’m posting this about half an hour after the post published and there are already a ton of comments focusing on the bereavement policy, but hopefully we can shift our focus from here.)

  2. ZSD*

    I’d agree with Alison that it’s better to err on the side of empathy here.
    Separately, why is it standard to only give three days of bereavement leave in the case of a spouse or child’s death? That’s my current employer’s policy, too, and I think it’s horrendous. If my spouse died, I’m not sure I’d be capable of feeding myself after three days, much less going back to work. I realize that businesses can’t reasonably give you as much time as it takes to grieve the loss of someone that close, but something like maybe two weeks would seem both achievable for the business and more humane.

    1. Katniss*

      Agreed. Three DAYS? My folks are on the other side of the country so it would take me a day just to get home and a day to travel back. So I’d get one day to grieve and then it’s time to go back to work? I would hardly be putting in good work at a time like that.

      Not that it’s the OPs responsibility, but I also find it a bit extreme to require proof of relationship.

      And don’t even get me started on bereavement policies only applying to blood relatives. When my grandparents died, I was sad but didn’t feel the need to take bereavement. If my best friend died, however? I would need it.

      1. Artemesia*

        Yeah — 3 days for a spouse or child or parent? Really? That is fairly monstrous, especially for a child or spouse.

        1. Katniss*

          When my ex’s mom passed, it took several days for the funeral to happen and several days for us to get back. He had two weeks off total. Of course it was still hard for him to return to work after that, but that seemed much more reasonable.

        2. Kyrielle*

          Especially the latter two, but also a parent, yes. That’s not even enough time for anything but a dash-in-and-out if the funeral is not near you. When my father-in-law died, we had to fly in and out – it was nearly a full day of travel each way. (I was on a 3-day bereavement rule then, too. I applied PTO for the difference, and was both irritated I had to and glad that I could.)

          When my parents died, there is no way on EARTH that a three-day policy would have been okay. Luckily, my boss gave me additional time (and was allowed to).

      2. Hotstreak*

        My best friend died a few years ago and when I got back from the funeral, my manager came in to my office to clarify if the person who died was “a family member or friend, since we need to figure out how many days are covered by policy”. I don’t think I’ve ever been that emotional at work! She had flexibility and gave me the full family level leave, which was really nice.

        I don’t know if this is normal at all, but all funerals I’ve been to were on the weekend, so three days leave plus the weekend would give five days total for grieving and funeral. I understand why the leave is limited to that (or you need to use vacation or something). It’s not reasonable to expect to get time off to completely emotionally heal and return to 100% production levels. Like if I broke an arm, I would get a few days off but be expected to return and do my best.

        1. Miss Betty*

          If you broke your arm and couldn’t do your job, you could get short-term disability if it was available to you. (At least that’s my experience when I broke my arm and couldn’t do my job. I was fortunate enough to have the short-term disability plan my company pays for plus my AFLAC plan I pay for myself.)

        2. Jonas*

          Being married to someone from a Catholic family, I’ve learned that Catholic funerals are RARELY on the weekend because of masses. Out of about five Catholics who’ve died in the past few years, only one of them had a weekend funeral.

          1. Caffeine Free*

            We had a lot of trouble scheduling a funeral during Holy Week. Definitely couldn’t do it on Saturday… and weren’t allowed on Monday either.

        3. Kate M*

          For a lot of people, if you’re doing a burial, the wake is maybe 2 days after the passing and the funeral is the next day, so 3 days after. This applies often even if the person passes on a Monday, so you can’t really hold out for weekend funerals. If it’s a memorial service, that’s different.

        4. sleepyheadzzz*

          That’s interesting about funerals on weekend. I’ve been to a lot of funerals in my life and I don’t think one of them has ever been on a weekend.

          Our bereavement policy recently changed from a blanket policy of 10 days (so 2 full weeks), to 5 days for immediate family, 3 days for non-immediate family, and 1 day for friends or acquaintances. I’m 31 years old and have know my best friend for almost 27 years. She’s like a sister to me. My son calls her auntie. I know there’s no way 5 days, let alone 1 would be sufficient for me.

          Luckily, my workplace is also very flexible and the only reason the policy changed is because one single person abused it last year, after 15 years without a single issue.

          So sorry for your loss.

          1. sleepyheadzzz*

            I forgot to add that where I work (I’m in Canada but this is my work place policy) we are allowed to use bereavement for any time off related to a death, not just for funeral arrangements. A couple of years ago a grandparent was dying. We thought it would happen on Tuesday so I took Tuesday and the rest of the week off. She held on until Friday but I spent all that week at her bedside. Being able to use the leave that way was a huge weight off my shoulders.

      3. Wendy Darling*

        When my brother died it was like 2 weeks before the funeral actually happened because he died in a city far from where the entire rest of my family lives so they had to collect the remains and bring them back to our hometown, and also there was a police investigation and autopsy so his body wasn’t even released to my family for nearly a week. We also didn’t use a funeral home for the service (since he was cremated in Other City, none of them would work with us if they weren’t doing the cremation or embalming) and I have no idea if there was an obit but I don’t think there was (can’t really stomach googling it right now). There were newspaper articles later, but none immediately after the funeral I don’t think.

        I was away for two weeks. Luckily I was in grad school and it was summer so no one cared where I was. I guess I could have sent someone a police report…

    2. INTP*

      And apparently you only get three days if the funeral happens three days later. If you have a speedy funeral, you have to get back to work.

    3. jhhj*

      We give (a certain number depending on the person — yes, by family relationship isn’t ideal, but there’s no easy way to do it otherwise) of PAID days, but if someone had to fly across the world and back, we would be happy to give them as much time unpaid (or vacation) as they needed.

    4. Cucumberzucchini*

      Well, you can take additional days it seems like, just that you’d have to use PTO or take the time un-paid. I think that’s fair enough. 3 Days of Bereavement time is typical of all the company’s I’ve worked for.

      Though I never worked for someplace that cared how those days lined up or required an obituary. That’s so weird. Either you trust your employees or you don’t. Also if I’d rather take my bereavement days to be with a dying relative while they’re alive that should be my choice. I don’t see why the company has three days from death to funeral.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I think people may be confusing bereavement leave allowances with time required to return to work. You can take more leave–it’s just not covered under this category. I also think that bereavement leave is historically for attending funerals, not for dealing with the emotions of loss; that’s why you see “funeral leave” as an alternative phrase.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes — the company isn’t saying that you can only take three days. They’re saying they’ll give you three extra “free” days on top of whatever PTO you might choose to use. I’ve seen lots of policies like that; they’re not terribly uncommon. (I think it’s the “prove it” aspect of this policy that’s less common.)

        2. snuck*

          Agree the death to funeral thing seems prescriptive. That said… people with terminal illnesses can have moments of health and go up and down. I wouldn’t say no to a request to spend a last few days, but with the history of lying from this staff member I’d side eye them. And I’d have a frank talk about other leave options too.

          This is why you don’t use every hour of PTO as soon as you can, you save a couple of days. Because births, deaths and marriages…

      2. BananaPants*

        That does seem weird. I had a boss years ago (not a good manager) who demanded that I produce an obituary listing me by name as a survivor of my grandmother. I had never used the bereavement leave policy in the 5 years I’d been employed there and had to fly halfway across the country, and this guy was sitting there demanding a copy of the obit. Fortunately my aunt had paid to publish an obituary in the local paper which happened to have online obituaries, so I printed it out and presented it to him – he seemed shocked that I legitimately had a dead grandmother. Yeah, because I really wanted to take a Friday off in the middle of FEBRUARY and rather than using any of my ample vacation time, I decided to try to use bereavement leave. /sarcasm

        This was the same manager who initially demanded that we use personal days or vacation time to go to a coworker’s wake and funeral – that’s right, a member of our team died suddenly and tragically, and he was quibbling over how we’d take time off for the funeral. In the end, a VP gave the edict that any employee who attended the wake and/or funeral would be given free PTO.

        Meanwhile a few years ago, my FIL’s longtime partner died and I had to use a vacation day for her funeral. This woman was my de facto mother in law for close to a decade, and we and our child were listed as survivors in her obituary – but because she and FIL did not legally marry, up to 3 days of bereavement leave didn’t apply to me. Even my boss at the time thought it was silly that I couldn’t use even one day of bereavement leave.

      3. Shop Girl*

        Also obituaries, where I live, cost by the word so it is very possible that names of family members won’t be mentioned at all.

    5. Kelly*

      I agree that 3 days isn’t enough time, but my interpretation is that is is 3 days of paid time off and anything else would need to be handled by PTO.

  3. Natalie*

    Probably not something you have any control over, but this obituary policy seems bananas. I’m pretty sure anyone can pay a newspaper to run an obituary for anyone else (or a person that doesn’t even exist!). Not everyone runs them, especially these days, or runs one that lists every single relative by name. When my grandmother with 8 kids, 8 kids-in-law, and 20+ grandchildren died only her kids were listed by name in the obit.

    1. ZSD*

      I agree. In general, if an adult tells you that someone close to them died, you should believe them. They’re not college kids asking for extensions on their midterms. You don’t need proof that they’re bereaved.

      1. Ellen N.*

        Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. I used to have an assistant who couldn’t seem to go more than two weeks without taking a day off. She took bereavement leave for her grandmother three times. When questioned about having three grandmothers she said that the first grandmother hadn’t been a blood relative, but someone who was like a grandmother to her. Her other standard excuses were, headaches, sore back, sick cat, car needing repair. All of these problems occurred only on Mondays or Fridays.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Yes, but then the problem is that she is a liar who lied about everything — not that she lied about bereavement leave.

      2. Laura*

        Unfortunately, that’s not a solid workplace policy. It may seem crass, but providing some kind of proof will circumvent the people who think it’s okay to lie just to get time off.

        1. Observer*

          No it won’t. Especially when you use such stupid forms of proof. I’m not directing this to the OP, as she’s not the one setting policy. But, insisting on an obituary, while a note from the funeral home indicating that she was making arrangements + documentation of the death from the relevant government agency is a recipe for cheating.

        2. Koko*

          I disagree. You don’t have to micromanage people’s affairs and operate under suspicion and mistrust for it to be a solid workplace policy.

          You don’t need to have a policy that demands proof of death in order to 1) ask for proof in a specific case where you think someone is lying, or 2) penalize an employee found to be lying. And there are undoubtedly going to be other issues with an employee who lies about death in the family to get an extra day or two off work.

          Trusting your employees to behave like responsible adults until they’ve proven they can’t be trusted is a solid policy. I think this is a lot like the “welfare queens” myth – I seriously doubt that people lying about death in the family is such a widespread problem that there needs to be a routine policy implemented for the entire staff to jump through. Address trust issues with the employee who is causing them and treat the rest of your staff like trustworthy adults.

          1. Kate M*

            Yes. If someone is so untrustworthy to lie about a dead relative, they will lie about and try to get out of other things. There will be a pattern – you don’t have to focus on just trying to “catch” the people aiming to get bereavement leave.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        But then we have the Ops employee here who clearly lied to get an extra day because she’s low on pto. But…I guess if we don’t require proof of illness every time someone calls in sick, we shouldn’t require proof of death either.

        1. Kassy*

          “On a Thursday night, I got a text from Jane saying that her stepfather only had a few hours to live and that she was going to be with him.”
          “She said that her stepfather has passed over the weekend.”

          Um…where is the lie? Are we stipulating that she is lying because she said “a few hours” on Thursday night and it ended up being longer? That’s how death works. You don’t get an exact timetable and the doctors are just giving their best guess. Do we really want Jane to have to be THAT person that pesters the doctors saying “So, what time exactly do you think he’s going to die, because I have to make arrangements with work…” No. No one in that room gives a rat’s behind about Jane’s employer right now. Nor should they have to.

          I know this is worded a little strongly, but I feel strongly about it. Death watches get no respect any more.

    2. KT*

      And many opt to not have an obituary-they’re not mandatory or automatic. My family is very private, so we’ve never had obits run.

      My friend was estranged from her father, so when her husband died, she deliberately didn’t have an obit posted because she didnt want her name/location show up where it could be found by her dad.

      1. Michelenyc*

        Plus they can be very expensive. When my grandfather passed away I was pretty shocked at how much it cost to put it in the paper.

      2. AVP*

        I was just coming to say something like that – when my boss’s mother died I ended up processing her obituary and it took a few months, and cost about $1000 for a short blurb to run in two smallish newspapers. Not everyone is going to bother with this in 2016.

      3. ZenJen*

        Yes, obits aren’t a standard thing. if there’s no obit, nothing else to prove OP’s relationship to the deceased, then her time SHOULD be charged to PTO.

        and, maybe at that point she needs to be on a PIP for the constant absences because she’d be going into negative PTO balance?

        1. Observer*

          Yes, obits aren’t a standard thing. if there’s no obit, nothing else to prove OP’s relationship to the deceased, then her time SHOULD be charged to PTO.


      4. Laura*

        Well said. As print is dying out, fewer and fewer families are opting to print obituaries, especially since they’re prohibitively expensive, and often families stretch across the country and can’t afford to pring obits everywhere.

      5. BananaPants*

        They are expensive, and the survivors of the deceased are paying by the word or letter. Some families don’t publish them at all, or just publish a brief death notice indicating the name and the birth/death dates of the deceased. It’s a tall order to expect a bereaved family to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars more to publish an obit in the first place or to list every in-law or grandchild by name simply so that the employer of one of those relatives is happy with “proof” of the relationship.

        IMO if you have a note from the funeral home, that should suffice in lieu of an obituary. It reeks of not trusting one’s employees and treating them like children, but whatever.

    3. Anna No Mouse*

      That was my thought as well. I was only at my current job 3 months when my nephew died, and I had no problem getting bereavement time to travel to another state to attend his funeral. And no one asked me to prove it.

      Honestly, if OP thinks there is even a possibility that Jane is lying about her step-father dying (which is an icky thing to do), then I agree with Alison, and there are much bigger problems here than possibly giving an employee an additional 8 hours of bereavement time.

      1. Natalie*

        And really, when you think about it, how much overlap is there going to be between “overall good employee” and “lies about needing bereavement”? Very little, I’m thinking. The only affect of this ridiculous policy is hassling people who are grieving (apparently *immediately* after the death as well because payroll needs this information). People who are lying probably have other performance issues you can and should focus on.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Yeah I hadn’t thought about payroll needing the info so fast til you pointed it out. Presumably because the pay stub has available pto balance on it, but that can be adjusted on the next run, I would think.

    4. Mike C.*

      The other thing I keep thinking of is that when there are family tensions, terrible people sometimes leave family off of the obituary. This is seriously not a mess you want to get into or force your employees to explain.

      1. AMG*

        That’s me–see a couple of posts down. I think there are others in this thread too. To have to explain why you are estranged from so-and-so or why you were left off of the obituary while grieving would really suck.

    5. KR*

      I agree that the obituary policy is odd. Not only that, but obituaries aren’t always complete or accurate. When my mom died, they listed my age incorrectly. I’ve seen ones where they completely miss one side of the family (either intentionally or not) or get a significant detail of the person’s life wrong. While the situation with Jane seems suspicious and OP should keep an eye on her, this isn’t the right time to do it. She shouldn’t have to prove that there was a death in order to get bereavement leave, especially since she’s probably wrapped up in all the things that happen when someone dies like planning a wake and funeral, divvying up belongings, sorting finances & wills, travelling, dealing with all the emotions that go along with grief and loss, and fending off the waves of concerned friends and relatives.

      1. AMG*

        Same–I was left off entirely of my half brother’s obituary even though we were as close as full siblings. His mother (we share the same father who already passed) wrote the obituary and excluded me. I still could have proved my relationship to him though.

      2. Doriana Gray*

        I agree that the obituary policy is odd. Not only that, but obituaries aren’t always complete or accurate. When my mom died, they listed my age incorrectly. I’ve seen ones where they completely miss one side of the family (either intentionally or not) or get a significant detail of the person’s life wrong.

        This. I once saw the obit from a family member’s funeral where they didn’t list the names of any of this man’s grandchildren because he had too many of them. If one of his grandkids needed this obit as proof that they were related to him to get bereavement leave from their jobs, they would have been out of luck.

        1. pope suburban*

          Yep, that was the case for my paternal grandparents. I have fourteen cousins, so there was no room to list all of us. We were “and 15 grandchildren,” and fine with that wording.

          1. Judy*

            I have 32 first cousins on one side of my family. Generally we’re listed as “many nieces and nephews” in our aunts and uncles obituaries.

          2. Simonthegrey*

            There were only 8 of us grandkids for my grandma but because of cost, just her kids were listed (4) and then mention of their families.

          3. Clewgarnet*

            I used to write the obituaries for my local paper, and the policy was to only list the spouse by name. Everybody else was included as number of sons, daughters, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.

            (Incidentally, we made no charge for obituaries, but they were run as and when there was space. It wasn’t unheard of for an obituary to run up to a month after the funeral.)

      3. Not So NewReader*

        When my MIL found her obit in the paper she called them up and told them she was very much alive and they needed to retract her obit.
        Just because it’s in writing does not mean it’s accurate.

      4. de Pizan*

        For my grandma’s obituary, they transposed the numbers–number of her children was mixed up with number of grandchildren (which was hilarious since she had 39 grandkids), number of grandchildren mixed up with great-grandchildren, etc. And then they had left out the whole last section about her life. We had them run a corrected copy–that time they managed to transpose whole sections, where her dead relatives became her living, her living became dead, they left off half of her children’s names, her sons-in-law became her sons, and all references to grandchildren/great-grandchildren were completely omitted. We decided to just leave it.

    6. some1*

      That’s not true, actually. My mom passed away just over a month ago and the local paper would not take an obit that didn’t come from the funeral home, or with the home’s contact info so they can verify.

      That being said, and this might be just for me being from a big Irish family, but PLENTY of family members who attend funerals don’t get specifically listed in the obit. And not everyone chooses to publish one.

      1. KR*

        I don’t think this is a widespread practice. A close family friend wrote my mother’s obituary and submitted it to the newspaper. They called the funeral home to confirm the date and time of the services, but it wasn’t a requirement.

          1. Zillah*

            I think KR is saying that listing the date and time of the services wasn’t required – the funeral agency only got called bc she chose to.

      2. Oryx*

        Like KR said, this isn’t an across the board thing. I have had family members write obits for other family members no problem.

          1. Oryx*

            Natalie said individuals can pay a newspaper to run obits and you said “that’s not true, actually.” KR and I are saying we’ve known family members submit obits to newspapers without going through funeral homes.

              1. ToxicNudibranch*

                And yet, that’s a relatively unfounded assumption. I’ve had relatives’ obituaries submitted by family members with no Funeral Home verification required. One of them had the time of the service incorrect.

                Just because your local paper does things a certain way, and you think that way is reasonable, doesn’t mean it is a widespread practice or requirement for other publications.

              2. Oryx*

                Okay, but you still seem to be arguing that this is a maybe possibly “could be” situation and I’m telling you, point of fact, that obituaries can be submitted and printed in the newspaper without any involvement or verification from a funeral home.

                I understand that you have not experienced this personally, but it’s an actual thing.

                1. fposte*

                  I could be misunderstanding–are you saying that you’ve had family members submit obituaries for people who weren’t dead? Because if so, I want to hear that story.

                2. Oryx*

                  No, I’m saying I’ve had family members submit obituaries for dead relatives and the newspaper published them without needing verification from the funeral home, which is good because there was no funeral home involved.

                3. Hiring Mgr*

                  I usually submit at least one fake obit a month for when that unanticipated day off just can’t wait..

              3. Clewgarnet*

                For two years, I wrote the obituaries for a local newspaper. Family members would fill in a form with details of the deceased – age, family members, brief history, hobbies, etc., and I would then massage it into something appropriate.

                It was pretty much 50/50 as to whether the forms were sent to us by the family or by the undertaker. I phoned the undertaker once or twice to confirm the spelling of the deceased’s name, but never to confirm they were actually dead. (And we never had any complaints about running an obit for someone who was still alive!)

              4. Kelly*

                Most papers in the area I live in still run the obits daily and more on Sundays. They’re a revenue source because they charge per character.

                When my grandmother died last year, I believe several of my aunt’s wrote her obit. My sister couldn’t make it back for the funeral because of how expensive last minute plane tickets would be. Neither of us were close to her and she wasn’t the kindest woman. I didn’t really want to go but I had to because my dad needed one of us to be in the funeral party. My sister said it was a good thing she was a half continent away at the time because she could not believe what a load of crap my grandmother’s obit was. She said it was proof that there still is a need for creative writing programs, which is a lot coming from someone who went to school for science master’s degree.

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        When my grandmother died, the obit went directly from us to the newspaper – in fact, they had a form they wanted us to use. (And they decided to leave out one survivor we had very deliberately put in. I haven’t forgiven them.)

        1. RKB*

          Same here. Somehow at 14 I was put in charge of writing my grandfather’s obituary. Went straight to the press.

      4. sunny-dee*

        Yeah, that wasn’t the policy for the papers I worked at, mainly because a lot of people die somewhere other than their hometown, but the family still wants an obit in their hometown newspaper. We would just run what was submitted. (Free for local funeral homes, charge for ones submitted by family.)

    7. neverjaunty*

      Funeral homes generally post obituaries online or on their websites, separately from running them in the newspaper (which can take a long time to prepare and publish). OP should be able to check this with a quick Internet search on the deceased person’s name.

      1. Natalie*

        But again, that assumes that the family ran an obit and it listed Jane, her relationship to the deceased, and his date of death, all of which are apparently required by this stupid policy.

        1. neverjaunty*

          No, it doesn’t assume that. Funeral homes themselves generally post an obituary on their own website or other places online, based on information gathered from the family. This is entirely separate from the family choosing to place an obituary in the newspaper. If the OP wants to see if there was an obituary, she can check the funeral home’s website or do an internet search to get that information without checking the newspaper or badgering Jane.

          1. Natalie*

            The OP says “Payroll contacted me the next day to say that the note was fine to certify the dates of services but still needed something that proved the date of passing (not on the note) as well as her relationship to the deceased.” so it sounds like they were assuming that information would be in the obituary. If it’s not, as it often isn’t, how is Jane going to prove her relationship? Maybe her grieving mother can dig up mom & stepdad’s marriage license, I guess.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Yes, all kinds of “ifs” and “possibles” could be at play here, and we can nitpick until the sun cools in the interests of saying how dumb this policy is. All I’m saying is that if the company insists on the obituary, there may be a way to get it without nagging Jane for it.

              1. Natalie*

                The OP says they already did that and didn’t find it. That’s what prompted my initial comment – they (or their payroll more likely) are focusing on the obit like it’s going to be a government dossier, but there’s a good chance that when it gets published it still won’t have all of the info payroll wants. So they should move on from this particular line of investigation.

                1. fposte*

                  It’s like they’re treating the obit as a government document, better than the death certificate because it includes relationships. But nope.

          2. kylemazoo*

            Some people specifically ask funeral homes not to do that. When my brother died we specifically asked the funeral home not to post anything on their website, so they didn’t. (there was also never an obituary). It isn’t done without consent of the family.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Yes, it may be that OP won’t find anything. But it’s one avenue to try that isn’t “hey, Jane, got that obituary for me yet? How about now?”

    8. Ad Astra*

      Yeah, I realize the OP’s hands are probably tied, but it is absurd to ask for “proof” of death. And it’s double insane to suggest that an obituary is the only way to “prove” the employee’s relationship with the deceased; newspapers will print anything you want in an obituary if you pay for the space. I’ve seen policies like this in college, but professors don’t get to hand-select their students the way employers get to hand-select their employees.

      The aptitude test for a promotion gave me pause, too. Observing someone’s work and perhaps interviewing them about the new role would be a lot more appropriate. I think I just don’t like the way this company does things.

    9. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      Further, if it’s in the paper, you usually pay by letter or word and that cost can add up. If the family doesn’t have a lot to spend, they might not even include relatives of the deceased. Though presumably an online one at the funeral home would be included with the funeral. One would hope.

    10. Anon for always*

      I think the requirement of an obituary is just odd as proof of a relationship is just odd. My uncle died in January. If you had read his obituary you wouldn’t have even known that he had grandchildren as they weren’t mentioned.

      Obituaries are often written with an agenda of some sort (for good or bad) and often exclude important information and relationships. I would wonder what would happen if an obituary is published and the employee’s name isn’t mentioned in the obituary?

    11. many bells down*

      For some reason, there was never an obituary published when my father died. He donated his body to UCLA Medical center and there was no funeral, just a memorial service a week later. I’d have been SOL I guess, with no way to prove he’d died.

      In fact, we can’t memorialize his Facebook account for this reason. FB requires an obituary or death notice, neither of which exist.

      1. Natalie*

        I didn’t know that about Facebook, that’s really odd. You’d think the death certificate and some kind of proof they’re the same person would be sufficient.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I did, which is why a trusted relative has all my passwords. There are forums / social media / websites I belong to that absolutely would have to be notified. If I had a spouse, that person would have access to them.

        2. many bells down*

          Actually a death certificate might work, but I don’t have a copy of it. His widow possibly does, but there’s no chance of her submitting it to Facebook – if she even knows where it is. It’s complicated.

          1. many bells down*

            And if there’s a way to link to a death certificate? Because FB only takes links in their online form so I have no idea if that’s even possible.

            LinkedIn, fortunately, only required me to give the date of his death to deactivate his account.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            The town clerk for his town should be able to give you a copy of the death certificate. They charge a few bucks for that. They might ask to see some ID. If you call, they should describe the process over the phone. You can figure out if you want to do this or not.

    12. MashaKasha*

      My Dad passed away four years ago. I would not have been able to provide sufficient proof for OP’s company. It never occurred to me and my Mom to run an obituary. We were busy enough as it was organizing the funeral, Dad passed sooner than we’d expected and we were not 100% prepared. I was under my married name then. My mom never changed her last name when she married Dad. By these policies, I would not have been able to prove that the deceased was my biological father. (Though I guess I could’ve supplied my birth certificate that has his name on it, and then my marriage certificate with my maiden name on it?) I find this pretty frightening. Unless of course these checks do not apply to everyone at the company, and they’re just doing additional checks for Jane, because of her history of lying and cheating.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        For the Op, she should just charge her one day of pto and be done with it. Jane already admitted when he passed and the rest is on the note.

    13. Brandy in TN*

      I completely agree. I personally think theyre a waste of money but when my grandmother passed it listed her kids and their spouses and said 12 grandkids, etc.. So how would that prove anything and I certainly wouldnt have had access to her death certificate to prove myself. And what if they dont run an obit.

    14. Kelly*

      Our company requires proof of the passing before we will pay out Bereavement. Although it sounds absurd you can’t imagine how many of our “adult” employees have had their mother or father or grandparent (we pay the same for all) die again and again. So, we were forced to request proof of the person’s passing and their relationship to them.

      One guy took time saying his father passed away, we paid him. About 2 weeks later his father showed up looking for him to surprise him for his birthday by taking him to lunch. Ooops!

    15. Nancypie*

      Not only that, but an obituary is not an official document and not every family pays to have one out in the paper.

  4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    People handle grief differently. When my stepfather (who is my Dad in a lot of very important ways) reaches the end of his time, I know I’m going to be pretty thoroughly shattered. And you’ve got so much really valid bad behavior from her that leaning too heavily on the obituary thing actually kind of weakens your mounting evidence for getting rid of her, at least in my opinion. Nickel-and-diming bereavement leave is something you do at a certain amount of risk, so if you have the ability to do so, just let it go and focus on the performance issues that aren’t complicated with the death of a parent.

    1. KT*

      Heck, when my dog passed I was shattered :( I was very lucky my company at the time gave time for “compassion leave” to deal with family crises, whether placing an elder in long-term care, the death of a friend, or the death of a pet, mental health emergency, etc. I had 3 days where I just bawled

      1. The Butcher of Luverne*

        Totally concur with that. It took me a year to get over the loss of our 15-year-old Lab.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Oh yeah, I can agree with that. It’ll be eight years soon and I’m still grieving for my childhood cat. He just couldn’t hold out that last month till I graduated and came home.

      2. MashaKasha*

        Agree, I still miss my dog and it will be a year in June.
        He died on the last day of my vacation, so I had something like a half a day to recover before I went back to work. But I spent the next couple of months basically avoiding people outside of my immediate family, and what was required for work. I just couldn’t handle talking to anyone.

    2. Mephyle*

      “…leaning too heavily on the obituary thing actually kind of weakens your mounting evidence for getting rid of her, at least in my opinion. Nickel-and-diming bereavement leave is something you do at a certain amount of risk, so if you have the ability to do so, just let it go and focus on the performance issues that aren’t complicated with the death of a parent.
      Well said. A key insight to handling this situation.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        Yes, I agree. One of my co-workers was recently fired. Right beforehand, our mutual boss was asking us all questions about “don’t you think he communicated badly in this email?” and “how could an internal demo ever possibly not go well? Don’t you think that shows incompetence?” Which has led us all to reason that the boss was just looking for an excuse, because if we was doing something really terrible, you wouldn’t have to nitpick things like word choice in emails. That may not be strictly fair, but it is how people think and it is really killing morale.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          I understand building a case, but at some point just cut the chord already (or lower the axe). My bf’s work has been doing this for over a year about a coworker. They have an overwhelming amount of evidence and yet

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Totally agree, not the hill to die on.
        Pick on employee’s bereavement time and your company will be come famous in your area. And not the good kind of famous. Not only that but the story will go right around the work place, just like Alison says.

  5. mdv*

    Having recently dealt with the death of my father, which involved *international travel* for a funeral (which we just did two weeks ago, on his birthday, instead of when he died last August), I have to say that I feel extraordinarily lucky that my workplace bereavement leave policy is “up to 6 business days” at the discretion of my supervisor. Having such a narrow window (only 3 days?!) for the death of a direct relative is, ahem, PUNY.

    1. some1*

      I agree. My mom recently passed away too, and I got 5 days plus one more. If I had not needed to help with arrangements, etc, I would have not been able to get out of bed that week. I would have been absolutely worthless if I had come in to work.

    2. Liz*

      The official policy here is 3 days for bereavement leave, but I also had to make an international flight for a grandparent’s funeral, and my boss arranged it with HR that I got the full week as paid leave anyway.

  6. KT*

    So, all the other Jane issues aside, this policy and attitude towards bereavement leave sounds insane. And “she let it slip” that he didn’t die until Saturday? Assuming this story is real (which I am), everything was so chaotic and blurred together identifying an exact time of death was probably the last thing on her mind. Asking for an obituary even after the funeral home sent a message confirming her presence is just ludicrous to me. Not having trust in employees that when they say so and so died, they really died, is just a really bad policy to have and is terrible for morale.

    And I hate bereavement policies that go by relationship to the person. My brother may be dead to me, but what if my aunt essentially raised me? Or if my best friend who was closer than a sister passed?

    The other issues with Jane should be handled separately, but really, what happened to compassion?

    1. KR*

      Yeah. He also might have had a very long suffering death – so by Thursday he might have been slipping in and out of consciousness and by Saturday he finally stopped breathing. If you don’t know when it’s going to happen exactly, sometimes the only choice is to stay there by his side until it happens. Death is not always quick and it is almost never on a schedule.

      1. sunny-dee*

        This happened to me in January. My grandmother was rapidly declining, and I got called by my aunt to come down THAT NIGHT if I wanted to say goodbye. That was Wednesday afternoon; I was in her hospice room until Friday evening, went home to sleep and get cleaned up, and then she passed in the wee hours Saturday morning. But I wasn’t lying when I told my boss she was declining and I needed to be there, and if I had been there Friday, the difference between dying Friday at 11:59pm and Saturday at 1:00am is really not much. She really and honestly died, and I needed to be there. And I was.

      2. Kate M*

        And nothing in the OP’s letter actually suggested that she lied about this. She texted on Thursday to say that it looked like he only had a few hours left. Then she said he passed over the weekend. Those are both true statements. If I were in that situation, I would not think to go back to my boss and say, “just in case you were confused, he ended up dying on Saturday instead of Friday.”

      3. BananaPants*

        Yeah, it’s not like doctors and nurses can predict when a patient’s going to go, even in hospice. It can look like they’re hanging on and then the person goes downhill in a matter of hours. Likewise, they can think the end is imminent and then the person holds on for several hours or days.

        I think it’s seriously petty to nitpick Jane’s stepfather’s actual time of death like this, especially when it sounds like there are other performance issues beyond the use of bereavement leave.

    2. Dawn*

      I agree, KT. My grandmother is way closer to me than my mother and it would be devastating to lose her. I consider some of my lifelong friends my siblings, even if we don’t share blood.

    3. Granite*

      It also bugs me that our bereavement days are limited to the funeral and related travel. Not the last day or two in hospice, and not for the day before the funeral if you don’t need to travel. It’s only three days, does it really matter exactly which part of the death and dying process I use them for?

      1. KT*

        Truth. And for me, it was the days after the funeral that were the worst. At least leading up I could distract myself, but afterwards…I was a wreck and no one would have wanted me at work anyway.

    4. Kelly L.*

      Yes and I don’t think she had ever actually said he died on Friday! The way I read it, she thought on Thursday that he would die on Friday, but it sounds like he hung on for one more day and she never denied it. First she said “over the weekend” and then Saturday.

    5. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      I had a manager who wouldn’t let a coworker off to attend the funeral of her best friend out of state. And yes, she was a terrible manager for a lot of reasons and eventually got demoted.

      1. Myamitore*

        I’m not going to claim this is the same as losing your best friend, but my dog died last May, and my boss fought me over taking the following day off. My dog passed at 2am on Friday morning, and he expected me to be at work by 8. I eventually convinced him to let me stay home, but that wasn’t how I wanted to spend the hours immediately following her passing. He also refused to give me an afternoon off the following week to pick up her ashes from the crematory. No surprise, I quit shortly after that.

      2. MsChanandlerBong*

        When I was in college, a close friend of mine was killed in a car accident. I worked at a major retailer at the time, as a cashier, and I had the worst time trying to get time off for the funeral. I was only able to get one day off, so I had to be at the customer service desk at 6:00 the next morning. I cried almost all day, so I was pretty much useless.

    6. Oryx*

      Agreed. When my grandma died recently, I just had to tell my supervisor what days I needed off and submit it through our payroll system. My mom forwarded the obit to my sister and me in case we needed it for our jobs, but nobody asked for it.

    7. AndersonDarling*

      And I’ll bet if an executive had a relative pass they wouldn’t need to submit an obituary and proof of relationship. What is proof of relationship? A trail of birth and marriage certificates? It sounds more like the IRS instead of a payroll department.

    8. Kristine*

      I agree that policies that go by relationship aren’t the best. I was recently denied bereavement/PTO to travel cross-country for my aunt’s memorial because she wasn’t an immediate family member. Other than my mother and sister, she is my closest family member! Plus, she left behind two orphaned children, and I wanted to be there for them and part of the discussion of what would happen to them. But since she was “just an aunt” I was denied.

      1. heatherskib*

        This… My parents both passed away before I was out of school . My grandmother raised us both while my mom was alive and she took us in after my mom passed. Dad was useless anyway, but I’d still have gotten more time for him than for my grandmother who has loved and cared for us our entire lives.

    9. Simonthegrey*

      My work friend’s adult son died two years ago. She was not biologically related to him, nor was she a step parent; she had cared for him (caregiver role with the family) since he was a child and had always had that relationship to him but there was nothing documented about it, and she was absolutely devastated. No one where we work seemed to get it; there was no bereavement time and no sympathy cards. Likewise, my best friend suffered a health scare the beginning of this year that could have been fatal. This person is my sister in all ways but blood; she actually was my maid of honor in my wedding in place of my bio sister. Again, no one would have understood that here; they would have said she was “just a friend.” As if 15 years of shared life didn’t even matter at all.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I worked with a woman whose husband was sick. He kept getting worse. I followed her story along, but no one else seemed to notice. Finally he passed. She said I was the only person at work that offered their condolences. Our department was 15 people and there were 100 workers in our company. No one else could say, “sorry about your loss”? Just wow.

  7. Artemesia*

    The company is in this situation because they didn’t fire her when she cheated on the aptitude test. The idea that ‘well you didn’t tell her she couldn’t seek help on the test.’ is a classic response of nebbishy leaders who don’t want to stand up. I went through this with a grad student who had someone else take his admission test (he misspelled his own name and it wasn’t in his handwriting but the ‘handwriting expert’ said that was inconclusive) So he was admitted and then submitted material created by others in his workplace for an assignment and got caught and got flunked and fired. The school didn’t follow through on expulsion because he threatened a law suit over the firing. It culminated in him carrying a disk into a retake of a qualifying exam with pre-canned material. I read his first day material and it was obvious to me that that is what he had done, so I instructed the secretary to go into the testing room half an hour before the end of his time and take the disk out of the computer. She did and there it was. Even then, the first response of the director was ‘well was there anything in writing that he couldn’t bring materials into the exam?’ I was stunned that anyone would be that wussy about clear ethical violations especially repeated ones, but I had in fact given each test taker written information in advance about the rules, so finally we got rid of this unethical candidate.

    She is obviously cheating here. And she has put you in a no win situation where your superiors are doubting your managing of this and she is able to make you look bad for hassling her about a death. Is there any way to simply tell her: ‘the payroll people require an obituary that makes the relationship clear; when you have that, please send it to them and they will make sure your pay reflects that.’

    1. Artemesia*

      And on second thought. It isn’t ‘obvious’ that she is cheating. She has cheated before and so she is viewed through that lens. Bereavement is probably not the hill you want to fight the integrity battle on.

    2. neverjaunty*

      +1 to this. Why on earth does Jane still have a job? Getting rid of her is the right thing to do, but this is the classic “nailing Capone for cheating on his taxes” situation.

    3. AMG*

      And this is why the thought of managing Jane and having to watch her like a hawk give me a headache. bleh.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      “nebbishy leaders who don’t want to stand up”

      YEP. And, great term! Management phoned it in regarding Jane for a while and picked a really weird thing to start to take a stand on.

    5. Observer*

      She is obviously cheating here. And she has put you in a no win situation where your superiors are doubting your managing of this and she is able to make you look bad for hassling her about a death. Is there any way to simply tell her: ‘the payroll people require an obituary that makes the relationship clear; when you have that, please send it to them and they will make sure your pay reflects that.’

      No, she is NOT obviously cheating. And insisting on an obituary that makes the relationship clear just makes the situation for the company worse, because it’s an unfair requirement. If anyone every tries to use that as evidence of her misbehavior, any halfway decent lawyer will slap them down so hard that they will be pancakes.

      The company put itself in a ridiculous situation by not firing her when they should have. So now they are trying to get back at her for being jerks. That is NOT good management.

      It would be bad enough under any circumstances, but the fact is that she did show evidence of both the death and her involvement in the funeral.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Yep. Yep. Yep.

      This is a weak management. That is the main problem here. And Jane is having a great time making management fall all over themselves.

      Personally, I think what happened was she wanted to be at his bedside when he died. The staff probably said it would be a matter of hours and it took longer than that. Jane knew she was going to get the third degree on this one, so she got rattled, which was pretty easy to do because of already being in grief.

      Not the hill to die on, OP. This story goes around the work place or out into the public your company is going to look foolish. And I am choosing to say “foolish” as an understatement. I know what happens to stories like this where I live. People three towns over know the supervisor’s name as well as the company name. It’s not good. At all.

  8. INTP*

    I understand this isn’t the OP’s fault, but the bereavement policy seems excessively rigid to me. A bereavement policy should not require managers to quibble over exact dates of death or withdraw the bereavement days because someone didn’t die immediately when they were expected to. If someone died and they took the allotted amount of time, the rest of the details seem irrelevant, and certainly not worth having to bother a grieving person about policies and paperwork over. (And again, I get that this is an issue with payroll/HR and not the OP’s choice.)

    As for what to do, I agree with Alison’s advice completely.

    1. KT*

      ^This. The whole time of death versus passing is mind-boggling. It comes down to well, we’ll cover you if he passed at 11:59pm Friday, but if he passed 12:01am Saturday, you’re out of luck?

    2. Mike C.*

      Yeah, when you’re getting into the realm of having to calculate minutes or time zone differences (what if it was Saturday where the father was by it was still Friday where the office was, or what if it happened during a DST change) then you’re going way too far.

    3. Snarkus Aurelius*

      When my aunt had Alzheimer’s, she was so close to death over a six month period, that her family couldn’t keep taking time off every time she lost consciousness.

      Yes, this bereavement policy is inappropriate and unrealistic.

      That said, I bet there’s a specific incident that caused this heavy-handedness. That doesn’t make an office-wide approach okay. It’s a lazy workaround because there employer clearly doesn’t want to deal with the bad apple.

      1. jhhj*

        As I have mentioned here before, we had to add “you must take your X bereavement days within a month of the death” because people would take 1 for the funeral, then save the rest to pad out their Christmas vacation (they get 2 weeks, paid, plus the 2-4 weeks they get depending on the amount of time they’ve been working here). That was pretty gross, though also rare.

        1. DCGirl*

          On the other hand, my father-in-law, who was a career Navy man, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. I don’t know if you’ve had someone buried there, but he died in August and his service wasn’t scheduled till the following June due to the large number of WWII veterans who are now expiring and the unfortunate service men and women who are dying in current conflicts. I’m fortunate that my workplace was understanding.

          1. Sigrid*

            As a matter of fact, my grandmother’s funeral, at Arlington, is this week. She died in October. We didn’t get a choice about when the service was going to be. It’s been fun explaining this to my medical school administration (who by default assume med students are lying about everything) .

        2. JessaB*

          And how does this work if the burial is delayed because the person was out of the country, or a victim of a crime where the coroner/medical examiner is keeping the body, or any number of reasons why the funeral is delayed more than the month? Maybe you want to suggest to your company that you tag that as “within a month of death (for mourning,)” and “within x days of the actual funeral, (for the service and the travel to it,” ie – you get 3 weeks and you can split them up any way you want but they have to be around the actual death/planning for services, and actual services.

        3. jhhj*

          It has never happened that people want to do a funeral three months later, but I don’t imagine there would be any concern about that, they’d just tell us at the time and we’d say fine. It’s really to prevent more of the “I will take 1 day for the funeral, and save 2 days to extend a long weekend” stuff, and the staff union agreed that 30 days (or 4 weeks, can’t remember) was reasonable. It’s always possible to be more generous, the rule is in there for the people who want to play games.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Both my parents died in the winter. I had to wait for the snow to melt and the ground to thaw in order to have a burial service. This is fairly normal stuff in northern climates. I am not sure why adults have to explain these types of circumstances to other adults.

  9. jhhj*

    1 – the Friday bereavement leave: Jane was essentially informed that she could take Friday off, and your company being stingy because her stepfather died Saturday instead of Friday is just not going to go over well, because it is very nitpicky at a very difficult time. (Also, then she will argue that had she known she would have taken Wednesday too.)

    2 – the need for an obituary: you can always tell Jane that she needs some kind of proof to get it paid, but find out if she can get it to you later and just get the missing days as retro pay. There should be a way to get that to work, and then you just say “we need the proof to give you bereavement leave, so as soon as you give us the proof we’ll pay it on the next pay”, and then it’s on her to keep following up.

    3 – the distrust. It’s unclear to me if the absenteeism is her just not showing up for work (huge problem) or her using accrued vacation ASAP (why is this a problem? Is it that it looks bad, or is there some business reason it’s an issue). And if the test is the only ethical dilemma, in my view, a take-home test typically allows you to get whatever help you need (google, friends) and restrictions on that are usually made explicit. Of course if this the most recent of many ethical issues, then why is she still there?

    I can’t tell if Jane is a terrible employee, or just an employee out of step with the culture at your company. In either case you probably want her gone.

    1. INTP*

      Yeah, good point on it not going over well.

      I get that payroll might not be OP’s choice, but what is going to happen is that Jane is going to come back and tell all her coworkers that OP (or HR, or whoever she is the most angry with – not necessarily the person who made the call) withdrew her bereavement day after approving it because her stepfather lived a few hours longer than expected. And if there is any bad morale already brewing in the office, everyone is going to be furious on her behalf. It’s not a hill for management to die on, let alone a compassionate thing to nitpick about.

      1. Natalie*

        And that they hassled her for paperwork within a day or two of the funeral. That isn’t going to sound good to anyone.

          1. Gaara*

            Yeah, if I were a different employee there, and I heard about this, I would start dusting off my resume immediately.

      2. qtipqueen*

        Yes, this. If I heard about my coworker being jerked around when they had a family member pass away, that would leave a bad taste in my mouth.

      3. AnonAnalyst*

        Yes, this is my thought exactly. Even if I thought Jane was the worst coworker in the world and that management never held her accountable for anything, coming down hard on her about her bereavement leave wouldn’t make me feel better about the situation or about management.

      4. BRR*

        I think you summed it up with this isn’t the hill for management to die on. It sounds like Jane is a mountain range so they can pick other hills where they can address her performance issues.

        Something that I didn’t see mentioned, would there be this much of an issue for another employee? If no, then it sounds like there needs to be disciplinary action for Jane’s other problem areas.

      5. Sunflower*

        Leaving how good or bad the policy is out of it, if the policy was communicated to Jane beforehand, she has to accept that’s the policy regardless of how good or bad it is. Bereavement policy is usually communicated to employees when they start- I can understand needing a refresher or asking employees who used it what their experience with it was but it is what it is and it sounds like Jane is not being refused days off, she’s just going to have to use PTO for them. So all the employees should actually already be aware of this..

        1. Natalie*

          Eh, ours is in the sense that it’s buried the handbook somewhere, but I wouldn’t expect most people to memorize it. If the OP does decide they need to hold Jane strictly to the policy, they can still probably not text her *at the funeral* to get paperwork. This will keep for a week or so.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      #3 – this is a really good point. I went through a period where I used my sick time as soon as I accrued it — to the point where I rarely even had a full day of leave! It wasn’t because I just really wanted to be out of work as often as humanly possible, but rather that I was doing a job that was hella stressful and customer-facing, so if I felt even vaguely not up to it I’d take time off and go home early out of fear that feeling lousy + horrible stress would = saying something that could get me in trouble for being rude to a customer.

      I’m sure it didn’t reflect all that well on me, but at that point, I was running in survival mode and didn’t really give a flip.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Or it’s even possible she has been going through her PTO as fast as she accrues it because she has been helping her mother and step-father out during this illness – if he has been in hospice for a month, this may have been a long time coming. When my father had some medical procedures last year, all of our family had to scramble to help out with driving him to appointments and doing things that he otherwise would have done like keep the grass mowed or call a handyman to take care of repairs he would have done but couldn’t because of a lifting restriction. And that wasn’t even a fatal drawn out illness, just a semi-typical medical procedure.

        OP, if you are emailing back and forth with Payroll and HR, can you either go see them or call them and let them know that you are working on the details but that you aren’t going to harass your employee about an obituary or death notice right now and could they please have some compassion and work with you?

        1. KR*

          This would have been the attitude I would have taken if I were the OP. “Jane is currently on bereavement leave and I’m not comfortable contacting her and asking her about this until she’s back to work and has some time to spend grieving.”

      2. Kate M*

        Exactly. It sounds like some of the complaints about the employee are definitely warranted (cheating), but taking time off as she accrues it? Not having an obituary yet when her stepfather died? I know this was hashed out in another recent column, but unless there is a specific business reason to not allow people to take off time they accrue as they earn it, that doesn’t really seem like a relevant argument to me. Not saying she’s a stellar employee, but I’d try to separate actual bad behavior from other things.

    3. nofelix*

      Agreed, most take-home tests I have taken have allowed any help you need aside from outright plagiarism.

    4. myswtghst*

      Everything you said in #3 rang really true for me, and highlighted (yet again) why it’s so important to really address bad behavior in context when it happens, rather than storing it away and adding it all up for later (which can create resentment from both sides).

      While I understand it might not be the most desirable thing for an employee to immediately use all their PTO as soon as it’s accrued, it is their PTO to use as they see fit and they’re the one who will suffer if they’re out of PTO when an emergency hits. If it’s because the PTO is mostly unplanned, address attendance as the issue; if it’s all on short notice, maybe it’s time to create / re-communicate a time off policy which requires advanced notice to use PTO; if it’s impacting the business / coworkers, address that.

      As for the test, I’d be really curious about the background on that. If it isn’t explicitly stated to be a closed book, no questions exam and she wasn’t asking people “hey, what’s the answer to #1?”, I don’t think it is necessarily an ethical issue.

  10. ElleKat*

    As Alison indicated frequent absenteeism seems to be the the issue here. One note, for bereavement leave, my organization does not require any proof. Maybe it’s a regional thing – but I know of many people who have died and there was no obituary. For someone who is grieving it would seem to be a huge burden and rather insensitive to provide proof of death. As with many things, if an employer does not trust an employee it’s generally indicative of a larger issue.

    We have several people who use leave as soon as it’s accumulated or will come in for an hour or two and leave for the day when they’re out of PTO — but for the most part they are on top of their work.

    1. Anna*

      When my grandmother died last year I didn’t have to provide any proof. If I had I would have had some serious second thoughts about my continued employment at this site.

  11. B*

    It seems you are harping on the obituary because of your past experiences with her.

    However, I find your leave policy appalling. My family does not do obituaries so in that case it seems you would automatically think I was lying and not give me any bereavement leave. Perhaps ask the folks to take another look at the policy. In addition, you do not know if this stepdad was a father figure to her or not, by being so pushy as to text her for an obituary during a funeral and then hound her afterwards makes me wonder what type of company and people you work for. It seems pretty borish to me.

    1. KT*

      ^This +100. If someone texted me the day of my father’s funeral to ask me for an obituary, they would be getting my resignation and one heck of a write-up on GlassDoor the next day. And since I’m in PR, if I was feeling especially angry (which in that circumstance I’d probably be a rage monster), I’d be reaching out to every media contact I have to share this with them.

      “Boorish Employer Hounds Grieving Daughter at Funeral” is one heck of a headline.

        1. Koko*

          Agreed. That request should have gone in an email for the employee to read the next time she had a chance to deal with work stuff. Just the texting medium carries the implication that you needed to see this right! away! and respond ASAP!

      1. Laura*

        Love this! When I was in college, my aunt died and I had to prove her death to my job supervisors so I could miss a mandatory training day. Her funeral reception was held on campus so it was pretty easy to provide the information… but they handled it poorly and I realized how little I was valued.

      2. KR*

        I’m of the same attitude. When I had a significant loss, both of my jobs told me to take as much time as I needed and call them when I was ready to come back to work. I didn’t need much more than a few days because of my own attitudes, but I didn’t hear a peep from either job for that time and it was really helpful to be able to focus on me and not worry about the work I was missing (this was all unpaid leave).

      3. JessaB*

        The only reason I can see this being valid is something the OP did not mention, if the funeral is let’s say Monday and payroll has to be in Tuesday and the company does NOT have any policy about cutting emergency cheques (IE you don’t get your hours in properly you have to wait til next cheque to get those hours.) The OP may have been trying to make sure the worker is not going to be short 3 days of bereavement leave that coming Friday. It’s a horrible thing to have to do, but I’m not sure I’d blame the OP for trying to help the employee to get their ducks lined up in order to get paid their full cheque.

        If however payroll was due the FOLLOWING week, it’d be a bad thing to do.

        This irrespective of feeling that the policy is bad or anything else.

        1. Marvel*

          Hrm… texting, though? Why not put this kind of thing in an email? That way, you avoid interrupting the employee by forcing them to see your attempt at contact on a day when the last thing they’re probably worried about is payroll.

  12. Dawn*

    Bigger picture here for your company to consider: some people do not use funeral homes and so won’t have an obit ready to go three days after a death in the family. We didn’t use a funeral home for my father (he donated his body to the hospital he died in, and we had a small celebration of life with family) and his obit wasn’t published in the paper until a couple of weeks later- we had to wait for the death cert to be processed and then forward it to the newspaper before they’d print the obit.

    Also some obits don’t include the standard “survived by blah blah blah”- again, the one for my father didn’t- per his wishes and per what the family wanted.

    And oh my god if my manager had been asking me for this kind of thing THREE DAYS after my father had passed away I would have probably lost it. I wasn’t ready to talk about anything related to my dad’s death two weeks after he passed when I got back to work, I sure as hell wouldn’t have been able to jump through hoops “to make payroll happy” three days after.

    Doesn’t help you now, with this employee (who seems to have a host of issues), however maybe it’s something to bring up with regards to your company’s policy around bereavement going forward.

    1. the gold digger*

      some obits don’t include the standard “survived by blah blah blah

      I am pretty sure my husband’s father made sure my name did not appear in my husband’s mother’s obituary. :)

    2. Jerry Vandesic*

      Agree completely. I recently had two relatives pass away, and neither had a funeral home funeral nor an obituary. Both were cremated immediately, and there were wakes at their houses, but no formal ceremony at a funeral home. Not everyone follows the same process when a relative dies, and the company’s expectations are out of line.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      A few years ago, my cousin died in February, and didn’t have a service of any kind. In ~May, we had a “celebration of life” type of thing in a local park. It was on a Saturday, but I would have been fine to take bereavement leave for it, if needed. Doesn’t sound like it would be possible at the OP’s place. No one has ever asked for an obituary, death certificate, or proof of relationship for the other six relative’s funerals that I have had to take time off for since I’ve worked here (2007-2012 were rough years).

      IMO, give employees the benefit of the doubt. The Universe will take care of the liars and cheaters.

    4. kylemazoo*

      Not to mention there is no law that requires someone to do an obituary. Not everyone does them!

    5. (different) Rebecca*

      When my grandmothers on my dad’s side (biological and adopted) died, our branch of the family was left off because of petty grievances by the surviving closer relations. Can I ‘prove’ my relation to them? Yes. By obit? No.

  13. K.*

    I have to say, the obituary policy leaves a bad taste in my mouth. My old employer gave a week’s bereavement for parents (step or bio), spouses, siblings (step or bio), or children (step or bio, God forbid) and three days for everybody else. My grandmother died while I was there and I just emailed my boss and CC’ed HR and said my grandmother had died and I was taking bereavement leave (my boss knew my grandmother was actively dying, so it wasn’t a surprise), and that was that. I could have provided an obituary or death certificate or any number of things to prove she had actually died, but it just feels … I don’t know. Invasive, or something. (I feel the same way about doctor’s notes, for the record.)

    1. anon and on and on...*

      Our policy specifies number of days for parents, grandparents, spouses, siblings, and children, but nothing for aunts/uncles/cousins — even if it did, I would have expected a day at most. So when my uncle died, I had to use PTO (no big deal). I asked my boss if I could take a half day off the day before to help with planning, and he said our policy didn’t allow scheduling like that. Then (and this is why I love working for him) he said if I wasn’t feeling well I could just email him that I was going home early. So that’s what I did. :-)

  14. neverjaunty*

    OP, I’m sure you’re going to get a lot of comments about your company’s bereavement policy and how your director is reacting, but as AAM says, that’s almost beside the point. From your letter, it seems like you have bent over backwards to give Jane the benefit of the doubt multiple times when you probably shouldn’t have. “Caught in several ethical dilemmas”? (Which raises the question, how many unethical things has Jane done that you didn’t catch?) Cheating on an aptitude test? Absenteeism beyond simply using PTO immediately? It sounds like Jane is an employee you should have fired a long time ago.

    1. Bookworm*

      Right, and this whole mess with bereavement is sort of an indicator about why. If she was an employee that you and your director trusted, this would all probably be less of an issue. Instead, think of how it might look to others in her department.

      Does Jane know that you have trust issues with her? Was she told – explicitly, not via hints – that her prior behavior has caused people to be concerned about her commitment to the work? Because I think that’s part of what she needs to know.

    2. Analyst*

      Best of luck in navigating this, OP. If I were you, I’d push back like crazy on the Nancy Drew stingy bereavement policy and get whatever you can for Jane, not because she deserves it but because it’s right. And you’d want to make sure that any of your other employees weren’t dicked around like that in their time of grief either.

      And then start documenting actual work issues with Jane so you can let her go down the road for cause.

      FWIW here’s my story of an employer who did bereavement right: two years ago, I was able to take a bereavement day for my mother-in-law’s fiance’s burial. No obit asked for or anything. And last year, I took a full week of bereavement for my dad’s passing even though he didn’t pass until Tuesday morning. Again, no obit needed or any other form of proof. I did go into work that monday but my mom called hysterical right when I got in, that my dad had slipped into a coma (cancer, hospice) and I’m forever grateful that I was able to leave right away and be there with them in my dad’s last 24 hours. I wish all employers would be so generous.

    3. Wendy Darling*

      Jane sounds like a disaster area who probably should have been fired ages ago for all these other infractions, but I don’t think bereavement leave is the hill anybody should want to die on. I think there’s so much more potential for harm by intensely scrutinizing honest people than there is in letting a few people maybe get away with something.

      I mean unless she’s consistently asking for bereavement leave multiple times a year, or she asks for bereavement leave and then posts 20 instagram photos of her on the beach with an umbrella drink on the day of the “funeral”, it’s probably better to take people’s word for it.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Except that honest people have already been intensely scrutinized on this, according to the OP. Letting it slide with Jane sends exactly the wrong message – that if you are honest and comply with the policy, harsh though it is, you’ll get screwed, whereas if you blow off the rules, you get a pass. The time to change the policy is after they show Jane the door.

        1. JessaB*

          This. If you want to change the policy (and I do think it needs a lot of tweaking,) it needs to happen Post-Jane. You do not need the morale issues of doing it before that.

          Jane has issues and I’m not sure you need to wait that long after this to address them. The funeral mess is a part of the issues. I’m just not sure whether morale would be better or worse if you address the funeral thing as part of the problem. It’s hard to dismiss someone just after someone died. On the other hand the other workers are probably so aware of Jane being an issue. I can’t see how they’d miss the absenteeism, etc. A bigger issue is that upper management doesn’t want to deal with Jane (the whole exam thing is absurd.)

  15. Doriana Gray*

    Jane should have been fired a long time ago from the sounds of it. But yes, there’s something a little ick about an employer going all Nancy Drew here trying to track down an obit that may or may not exist after an employee comes back from bereavement leave. She could be lying, but on the off chance she’s not? It’s invasive and comes off callous.

    Meanwhile, if everyone in a position of power at your company doesn’t trust her, why is she still there? There’s a girl who used to work in a different division than mine who was constantly lying to her boss about her workload and absences, would take off in the middle of the day with no notice because she was “stressed,” and was even on double probation. You know what ultimately led to her being let go? She brought a gun to work (granted, she has a concealed carry permit, but still). This is probably an extreme example, but if they had just fired her any of the other 50 thousand times she acted a fool, they wouldn’t have had to go through the mess with the weapon. Point being, don’t wait for Jane to do something really boneheaded when you already know she’s a liability. She keeps taking advantage because she knows there will be no repercussions for her actions. If you find out she’s lying, pull the plug.

    1. Ad Astra*

      Yikes! Did she bring the gun to work in order to threaten and/or harm people, or did she simply decide not to leave the gun at home, which violated a company policy?

      1. Doriana Gray*

        I have no idea, and my question was, how did they even know she had it? Was she flashing it around? Did it fall out of her purse? No one could tell me. I don’t even know if our company has a policy about this, so I have to re-read the employee handbook (though I would think that given the high stress nature of our industry, guns on campus would be a no no).

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I work in a fundamentally risk adverse place, so this is something that happens a lot. People wait until the bad employee does something CLEARLY egregious and then jumps on that to fire them. It’s a lazy way to manage.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        It truly is. The sad part is, a few days prior to her firing, I’d been joking to a friend in my division that it seemed like the only way to get fired from our company would be to kill somebody. Apparently that (or the possibility of that) is true.

      2. JessaB*

        Also it’s a morale killer, I wonder how many good employees you lose to other companies by management being wishy washy like that.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        It could be legal, but if it’s against company policy, or even just her division’s policy, the legality of it wouldn’t matter. So it may have been a breach of policy (again, I don’t recall seeing anything about guns in our handbook), or they finally just got tired of her antics and used that incident as the catalyst to finally cut her loose.

        1. TheLazyB*

          But from that post it seems that in many states you have a right to carry and not tell your employer and there’s nothing the employer can do about it. Which is insane, don’t get me wrong.

          1. JessaB*

            Yeh, my understanding is that in order to get around a lot of carry laws you have to actively post the property as being gun free.

            Not every state has a law that let’s you do that but a lot of them do. But in that case the writer would have known for sure it was a gun free place and would not have to check the handbook, because there would be signage and the signs would have statutory language on them.

            Most states have requirements of what and where you need to post if you are gun free. And I’m pretty sure that all of them that let you, require it to be somewhere on or very visible from the entrances to the building, or if you have separate space, on the entrance to the separate space.

  16. Wildkitten*

    In my family we don’t have a funeral immediately – we have a cremation and then an ash scattering ceremony at a later date. So this 3 day from time of passing would not work for my family, at all. There are different ways of dealing with mourning and death and this is excessively rigid.

    1. Bookworm*

      We’re also not big on funerals. Instead, we’ve always had more informal memorial services about two weeks after the date of death.

  17. BRR*

    I think Jane has performance issues but this isn’t the situation where you should deal with them. It might reflect poorly on you to your other 19 direct reports. Your company’s bereavement policy feels unsympathetic handling this as a performance issue just adds to that. It doesn’t sound like you can do much about the policy (if you can I would though) but I would try and balance it with warmth.

    1. KR*

      I agree – this isn’t the way to bring up Jane’s performance issues. Bring it up another time and don’t even mention the bereavement leave mishap.

  18. Snarkus Aurelius*

    My initial response to this was to complain about how utterly condescending, paranoid, and paternalistic of an employer to require an obituary in order to qualify for a specific type of leave.  Then I read the rest of the post and learned Jane is probably the reason for this rule.

    AAM is right in that this alleged death doesn’t really matter.  Jane has multiple unrelated issues that sound a lot “meatier” than this one.  (Talk about burying the lede!)  Jane also strikes me as the type of person who needs to be told every detail, and whatever you don’t tell her, she’ll use to her advantage so she can turn the tables on you later.  (She didn’t know she couldn’t ask others for help on an aptitude test?  Really?  HR bought that?)

    If you can drop the obituary issue, please do because it’s too nasty of a risk if it’s true.  You need to fire this person, and it sounds like all you have to do is wait for the next stunt.  My hunch is that you won’t wait long.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      “My initial response to this was to complain about how utterly condescending, paranoid, and paternalistic of an employer to require an obituary in order to qualify for a specific type of leave. Then I read the rest of the post and learned Jane is probably the reason for this rule.”

      Me too! I was sharpening my pitchfork and lighting a torch. Then…oh, there’s more to this story.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Yes, this. In a company with trustworthy and ethical employees, you don’t need to demand that Wakeen produce an obituary to prove that he really was at his former foster mother’s funeral, and you can be generous with bereavement leave because you know people will use it appropriately.

      Trying to make rules for people like Jane is like trying to reason with a bright five-year-old. “You said I had to take my bath in a minute! Well you didn’t remind me and minute and ten seconds so you’re late and I don’t have to take my bath!” Making more and more detailed rules is no substitute for good management.

      1. Anna*

        It does make me wonder about the overall culture if they had so many abuses of the bereavement policy they had to make this asinine rule. Hm….

        1. Mookie*

          Yep. Guessing something toxic in the air: poor recruitment, frequent turnovers, inept management. The policy (draconian, finicky, and paranoid) speaks volumes.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, I am not impressed with this company. Maybe it is more of a hunch than based on real talking points. But if I was OP, I think I would be pushing back on several things, at least try to find out why this or that is going on.

      2. C*

        Except this appears to be the policy for everyone.

        There are two separate issues here: Jane’s behavior, and the (almost universally hated) bereavement policy. They should not necessarily influence each other. You seem to advocate modifying/re-thinking the policy based on Jane’s issues in other areas. That doesn’t feel warranted.

        1. neverjaunty*

          That it is the policy for everyone is exactly the point Snarkus Aurelius was making – that Jane (or at least, employees who behave like Jane) are why companies institute across-the-board rules like this; you don’t have to worry about whether somebody is telling the truth about losing four grandmothers in as many months, you just make them turn over the paperwork. This, of course, leads to other problems, but you really don’t need such a policy in a company that gets rid of the Janes early.

          FWIW, OP didn’t write in to ask about changing the policy, and we don’t know that it is “almost universally hated” outside of the AAM comments.

    3. Snarkus Aurelius*

      (I didn’t mean Jane personally was the cause of this rule. I mean people like Jane in the past.)

  19. the gold digger*

    The worst place I ever worked – the sweatshop of corporate finance – was not this rigid about bereavement leave. I had been working only three months when my dad went into hospice. I left and was away for two weeks, returning after my dad’s funeral. I told the director, whom I did not like at all and whom I thought was not a good boss, that they should not pay me for the time I had been gone.

    He waved me off, telling me it was too much trouble to deal with payroll.

    Either you trust the people who work for you or you do not. If you do not trust them, then that is its own issue. But demanding proof of death? Really?

    1. starsaphire*

      Totally with you here, gold digger.

      The jerky company that was actively trying to make me quit and denying my ADA accommodations past all reason? Gave me no hassle at all for my bereavement, and even sent me a lovely bouquet of flowers and a condolence note. And I got “take all the time you need, take care of you” emails from my management chain. No one requested obits.

      (I wrote the obits, and submitted them to my hometown paper; the paper didn’t ask for anything but a check. A guy I know ran a false obit in that newspaper once, for some obscure reason, so clearly they’ve never required any proof of death.)

      1. Chinook*

        I still am amazed at the wonderful employer who granted me one week bereavement leave to visit DH’s dying grandfather in the middle of nowhere Newfoundland. He (as well as DH’s boss) considered it bereavement leave even though Grandfather was only dying and not already dead (though we travelled with funeral clothes just in case) because they showed compassion and understood wanting to seem him while he was alive. About half of the very large family that was there worked for the government (most were military) and all were given this privilege. all we had to do was get a note from the palliative care doctor to confirm we were there. My MIL and her siblings all went back for the funeral a month later and those that were working also had to backlash at taking the second trip off either as vacation time or unpaid leave.

    2. JayemGriffin*

      When my mother died suddenly (literally overnight), I didn’t even bother researching the bereavement leave policy. I was on a plane that afternoon with an out-of-office set to “until further notice.” I think I emailed my boss and two of my coworkers that I was helping on a project. Leave, PTO, and unpaid time off all went straight in the “problem for Future Jay” pile. This was two months in to my first job straight out of grad school, so they would have had plenty of reason to distrust me, but my boss somehow made the HR puzzle pieces fit together; I was paid for every day that I spent out of the office that month. There were things wrong with that organization, but trusting their employees wasn’t one of them.

  20. Rebecca Too*

    I agree completely about the insanity of most bereavement policies. When my grandmother died suddenly (we were extremely close and I was devastated), even though my workplace had the “1 day for grandparents” policy, my boss at the time was nice enough to give me 3 days (no proof required!) and then let me take as much of my accrued PTO time as I felt necessary. I will never forget that; her compassion went a long way. Plus, the company even sent flowers to the funeral home. There’s a time and a place for micro-managing someone with whom you have trust issues. The death of a loved one is not one of them.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Yeah; I just looked the other way for this for an employee a grandfather who passed away. Bereavment leave comes out of your sick leave here, and I’m not in the business of judging your mourning needs or closeness of your relationship. If you tell me you need 3 days because your grandpa passed, I’m not going to argue.

      1. Simonthegrey*

        I needed a week off when my grandma died. I left on a Saturday at midnight to drive to where she was; she lingered for 2 days, then it took 2 days for the family to gather and another 2 days to get an open spot at the church. I was allowed PTO for the first two days and the other four after she passed were paid for bereavement leave. I would have only been eligible for 2 days if she had been in state but they allowed up to a week depending on how far you had to travel.

    2. Ad Astra*

      My grandma and I are also very close, and I know one day won’t cut it for me when she passes. I’m glad your manager was empowered to do the right thing instead of being forced to follow the policy to the letter.

    3. Granite*

      That reminds me of when my grandfather died. When I got the call that he’d had a massive stroke, I was devastated. (My grandparents raised me through age 10.) I was working an hourly no benefits job, and told the scheduling manager (not my direct supervisor) that I would have to miss my next couple shifts to go to another state to see him before he died. I was shocked when I got my next paycheck and saw she’d arranged to have me paid for the missed shifts. It was an incredible act of kindness. Still brings tears to my eyes.

    4. Temperance*

      But presumably, you are a good employee who was not trying to take advantage of the company.

    5. lfi*

      good god … the year we got married my dad’s dad passed, and then the week we were leaving for our honeymoon my mom’s mom passed. they took my phone calls, sent kind notes, and let me be. no one asked for anything but to ensure that i took care of myself.

      i actually just looked at my current policy and it’s 3 days…. wonder if it will change soon.

  21. Michelenyc*

    I find the LW company bereavement policy to be truly horrible. At my company we are given 7 business days. When my grandfather passed away my director was so understanding she told me to take as much time as I needed since I had to fly across the country to be with my family. I can’t beleive the LW’s company actually requires an obit to be sent as proof that the person actually passed.

  22. Katie the Fed*

    Oooof. Yeah I’m going to +1 everything Alison said.

    You’re focusing general doubts about Jane’s trustworthiness and reliability on this one issue, and this really isn’t the one you guys want to be focusing on. I’d rather err on the side of caution when it comes to something like this give her the benefit of the doubt, and then focus on the other issues as they come up (and from Jane’s record, it sounds like they will come up so you won’t have to wait long).

    I think at some point, maybe several months from now, you need to have a talk with her about the general pattern of absenteeism and reliability. But not right now – this isn’t the time for it. Yes, she could be scamming you. But if there’s even a chance she’s not it would be cruel to do right now.

    BTW, I do think your company’s policies are a little ridiculous on this.

    Have you tried just searching for the stepfather’s name and seeing if an obituary comes up?

  23. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’m going to post this up at the top too so that hopefully people see it before commenting, but since I’m assuming that the OP doesn’t have control over her company’s bereavement leave, I want to ask people to stop piling on about the company’s policy and try to focus on advice that will be actionable for her. Thank you!

    1. Katie the Fed*

      OK. But…isn’t OP potentially in a position to raise to HR the problems with this policy? HR might not have really thought through how it might play out in a case where there’s not an obit, or a delay, or whatever.

      1. Bookworm*

        We don’t really know that though. There are definitely work places (particularly some larger places) where OP going to HR to challenge the bereavement policy might make her seem out-of-touch or clueless about how the system works.

        If she had written in about how to get help changing the policy at her work, that would be one thing, but she’s clearly describing an issue that’s specific to this employee.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Fair enough. I just think there’s room out there for dealing with Jane while at the same time considering talking to HR about making changes.

          But working in government, trying to change an HR policy would be like throwing myself against a brick wall covered in gum.

      2. neverjaunty*

        So, I’m pretty sure that if OP wants to get HR to change the policy, Jane is not the case study she wants to present.

        1. Bookworm*

          That’s a really good point. OP pushing to change the policy now might send confusing signals (like she wants it to change so she doesn’t have to deal with a problem employee).

          It would be far more effective to wait until this died down if changing the policy was the goal.

          1. neverjaunty*

            (like she wants it to change so she doesn’t have to deal with a problem employee)

            I hadn’t even thought of it that way, but that’s even better than the point I was making! ;)

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Certainly possible, but not something we know from here, and it’s definitely turned into a pile-on about the company’s policy. I think we can safely say that the point has been made and doesn’t need to continue to be made.

        1. B*

          Alison – curious your thoughts on her texting the employee to ask about the obituary when she knew the employee was at the funeral? To me that’s an actionable item by her that could have waited until she got back or do you see a different side that perhaps I am missing?

        2. LD*

          Also, it’s a pretty typical policy. Some organizations are more generous, and some are less (like my current employer who only added grandparents to the policy three years ago!). The policy is not the problem in this scenario, the problem is how the manager is applying the policy and managing Jane and that there doesn’t appear to be any flexibility with the policy and payroll. I agree that it would be appropriate for the manager to intervene with payroll and allow Jane a little more time to provide the documentation needed, and to have a compassionate conversation with Jane about offering her a little more time to comply. Payroll is also typically not a department that is lenient with policies for who gets paid what. They follow policy. If everyone needs to comply, then everyone needs to comply and without the compliance forms or documentation payroll is asking for, it’s not likely they will pay her for those days. So I suppose the manager is trying to get the paperwork sorted as quickly as possible in order to comply with dates that payroll requires to get Jane and all the other employees paid by their typical pay date. Unfortunately, that interferes with trying to be compassionate. I can see a scenario like this – Payroll: “In order to process Jane’s next paycheck, we need this documentation by X date.” Manager: “But X date is tomorrow and Jane just got back today!” Payroll: “We need the documentation or she won’t get paid for those days in her next paycheck.” So what’s the manager to do? Hound Jane for the documentation? Talk to her/his manager and HR for help? Alison’s advice is the place to start and perhaps also see what you can do to provide some flexibility by talking with HR and your manager about how to better manage similar situations when timing for payroll and access to required documentation is either delayed or unavailable. I don’t envy any manager who has an employee who has proven to be untrustworthy and then has to make allowances for them in such a situation. It depends upon how your company want to be seen by its employees…hard nosed about bereavement policy, or flexible with grief-stricken employees. You and Jane both have my sympathies.

    2. The IT Manager*

      +1 I am shocked at the number of people honing in on the “bad” bereavement policy instead of offering useful advice to the LW. As I note in my comment below, if LW does realize the policy could use changing, Jane (with a history of lying and taking as much leave as possible) is not the person you want to fight this battle for. That’s likely to blow up in her face if it is found out Jane is lying, and it instead becomes support for why the current bereavement policy is correct.

      1. Bookworm*

        I think it’s really tempting on this blog sometimes for us to get started thinking about how a workplace should be….basically debating the ideal.

        Which is great and all, but it sometimes removes us from the practicalities of answering the specific question.

      2. Dan*

        Probably because the only actionable advice we can come up with for the OP is inaction. “If there’s even a chance, let it go.” “Don’t die on this hill.” “Doing is certainly going to send the wrong message to the rest of your staff.”

        Remember, OP’s question was more or less how to handle Problem Employee given a heavily bureaucratic policy.

        Sometimes, the only thing you can do is forward all of your incoming email to your spam box, send all your calls to voicemail, and close your office door.

      3. KR*

        People might be honing in on it because it makes for a good conversation and some people have a tendency to get carried away in conversation. Jane might not be a good example on why the policy should be changed, but for all we know she is not lying. I think it’s important to assume good faith and be courteous to people especially when we’re talking about a death in the family.

  24. AFT123*

    I have to chime in – this is not the battle for you to try and win the war to fire her. You need to give employees, even ones like this, the benefit of the doubt in family death situations, and wait for the next time she messes up to fire her. You know there will be a next time, and probably soon after her crappy experience with this whole situation. If all else was equal, I’d be looking for a new job if I were her, because your/your company’s behavior towards her during this time was appalling. Please don’t call and text your employees when they are in this situation – anything you need to say to them can wait until they get back. Please have the strength to push back on upper management and have your employee’s back. Please lobby to have your bereavement policy changed.

    A previous employer treated me poorly during when my grandmother had a stroke, went to hospice, and passed away. It was the straw that broke the camels back, and I started applying for new jobs as soon as I got back. Your employees will do the same, even if they don’t experience this directly, they will not miss how other employees have been treated.

    1. Mando Diao*

      I think the issue here is that this is a case where giving one person the benefit of the doubt is going to be a smack in the face to everyone else (including better employees) whose bereavement periods weren’t given similar consideration.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        That’s true, but “we’ve always done it this way” is not a good reason to keep doing the wrong thing.

      2. Natalie*

        That certainly sucks, but I don’t think it’s a good enough reason not too change. We improve when we learn that we need too, and we can’t do anything about what happened in the past.

        1. Mando Diao*

          The problem is that this goes both ways. Imagine if someone wrote in saying, “When my mom died, I got three days off and I had to provide documentation to verify my relation to her in order to get paid. Annoying, but I complied. I’ve just learned that a coworker, who already takes a lot of time off and leaves me hanging, has managed to get away without complying with the policy. I would have liked an extra day off to mourn my mother, and I wasn’t given one. I feel dumb for not just taking the time off and asking for forgiveness instead of asking for permission.” I have a feeling that the answer would be in the “your manager sucks and isn’t going to change” vein. I don’t know what the solution is, but I definitely think the manager is right to worry about fallout if jane is allowed to not comply with the policy, especially if this doesn’t trigger an official change in the policy.

          1. Natalie*

            I don’t recall details, but I think we’ve actually had letters along those lines (not about bereavement, specifically, but policies and practices changing) and I think the advice was more “sorry that wasn’t available for you, but it’s a good change overall”.

            How would any of the coworkers know the details, anyway? Jane was out for X days, they’re probably not going to know or care if those X days were coded as vacation, bereavement, or a mix of both.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Right. Unless Jane comes back crowing about pulling a fast one and getting extra days, who’s going to know which days were paid bereavement leave and which were PTO? (Outside of Payroll, of course). And if someone does find out and complains to Jane, I’d say “I’m very sorry you didn’t have enough time/were harassed for paperwork, and now that I’m aware it’s an issue, I’m going to ask Payroll to reconsider.” (Assuming that’s the case.)

          2. Chinook*

            But the employee in question did provide documentation from the funeral home, just not the obituary. I agree that this wouldn’t be my hill to die on but would keep an eye on her due to previous issues. But, in this case, with her having to deal with a recent death, I would be trying to work with payroll to atleast reimburse her when the paperwork does become available and/or ask the what would be suitable proof if there is no obituary.

          3. Rat in the Sugar*

            So management should never change bad policies, in order to be “fair” to those affected in the past?

          4. Not So NewReader*

            Good management would make an announcement saying there has been a change in policy. They can give reasons or simply state what the change is.

            The key here is management has to be strong. Yes, there will be people complaining, “how come I could not have that?” And management will have to come up with answers for that question. It could be as simple as saying that management had not reviewed that policy at that time. The change is going forward from here.
            If too many people are complaining then maybe management needs to look at how rigidly they hold to their policies and is that good for business.

      3. AFT123*

        I would hope that people would have compassion in a situation like this instead of feeling slighted.

        1. Mando Diao*

          It’s hard to give compassion when you have wanted compassion in the past for the exact same thing and didn’t get it.

          1. KSS*

            I understand what you are saying, but I think if it’s hard to provide compassion for you because you didn’t get the same compassion (and thus you would rather a bad policy continue and other people have to endure it because you did) that is on YOU, not on the employer, to fix. A bad policy shouldn’t stay in place because some people feel vindictive about having to suffer it themselves.

            1. fposte*

              And we also don’t know that’s ever happened. Providing an obit isn’t a big deal if you have an obit to provide.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            And this is how abuse cycles are perpetuated and victims become abusers. “Well, I had to go through X so therefore everyone else should too.”

            If people are that upset and they cannot find some comfort in the fact that changes were finally made, maybe these upset folks need to find work somewhere else. Maybe they are at BEC stage anyway and nothing will comfort/calm them.

            Other people might be able to say, “Okay this is a company that realizes it needs to change with the times and they are changing. I will probably benefit from other changes that happen in the future.”

            People quit jobs and no employer should expect to keep all the employees that are hired. They can try to keep things reasonable/fair but they cannot go back in time and correct things in the past. The best you can get with any employer is that they correct their errors and do things differently going forward.

      4. fposte*

        But they’re not likely to know. Whereas they will know, because Jane will tell them, if she’s “fired for taking bereavement leave.”

      5. NK*

        I don’t think it’s really giving her a huge benefit of the doubt, as she did provide documentation. And they can ask for further documentation, but if there’s no obituary, there’s no obituary. I imagine they are just used to asking for obituaries because they are typically readily available, and available via weblink to the funeral home these days. It sounds like the verification step hasn’t generally been an issue with other employees (whether you agree with the policy or not).

        And as others have said, this is not the hill to die on here. I have worked at other companies where someone clearly deserved to be fired for a lot of reasons, and the companies waited for some stupid technicality that had nothing to do with any of the real reasons the person needed to be let go. It’s always put a bad taste in my mouth, even though I was in full agreement that the person needed to be fired.

  25. Bend & Snap*

    When my grandfather died, I worked at a place that called me DURING THE FUNERAL (they had the obituary) to demand the death certificate. Those take awhile to process, and it was in another state, and they harassed me for it pretty much daily until I had it in hand, even after I was back at work.

    Just one of many examples of why it was a horrible, horrible place to work.

    Don’t be this company. And do address ethical breaches as they happen, so you don’t feel the need to use a life event to bash an employee over the head with.

  26. Mando Diao*

    “I would not call the funeral home yourself — you really don’t want the story line among other employees to be “While Jane was mourning the death of a parent figure, Lucinda was doubting her story and calling the funeral home to ask questions.””

    I don’t think OP should call the funeral home, but I doubt Jane’s coworkers would be on Jane’s side if this squabble came out into the open. If she’s already being sketchy about taking time off, it’s going to be REALLY bad for morale if people find out that Jane was exempted from a demoralizing and infantilizing policy that everyone else nonetheless has complied with. Like seriously, people are probably already pretty sensitive about this policy, and to find out that Jane somehow got paid for a day off that no one else did….that’s a really bad look.

    1. Ad Astra*

      I would think (hope, maybe) that OP’s other employees aren’t aware of the situation in such great detail. This employee has supplied evidence of death/funeral and took the agreed-upon time off. Her peers shouldn’t be aware of whether the evidence was satisfactory, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the hit to morale in this situation.

      1. Mando Diao*

        Well except the employees in payroll already know about this. It could easily be a hit to their morale.

        1. fposte*

          Sure, there are people, like me, who get annoyed when the rules aren’t followed to a T. But we’ll get over it, and it’s better for morale to be dinged because there was too much laxity over bereavement leave than too much severity.

          (But it does make it more imperative that Jane get canned if she doesn’t grow some morality.)

    2. Marina*

      I disagree. If I had a lazy, unethical coworker who was universally hated, and I heard that my company decided to bring the smackdown on her for taking too many days for bereavement rather than actually addressing any of her work-related issues, it would not make me think highly of my company. This is not the issue on which to change how they address Jane’s performance problems.

  27. AnonyMeow*

    I’ve never worked for a company large enough to have a separate HR, let alone a separate payroll, so I may be way off, but I find it weird that Jane’s manager (OP) is the one who has to relay all these (frankly odd) requirements to Jane, and Jane’s comments back to payroll. Is this normal?

    I’m a manager myself, and if I had to bug a staff member who’s just lost her stepfather for an obituary, I’d feel pretty crappy and worry about how it could damage my working relationship with her. I’d want HR or payroll to handle that. But then again it’s not all that different from having to be a middleman about, say, a policy that requires a doctor’s notes for a sick leave, etc.

    1. Mando Diao*

      It’s possible that a good portion of the other employees are proactive about submitting the documentation because it’s required if they want to be paid for those days. I don’t think it’s weird for management to get involved once it gets close to the end of the pay period.

      1. JessaB*

        This, I know when my grandmother in law died, I had to take a couple of days to arrange for my husband to actually be able to travel up to the funeral. I had in hand my employee handbook and knew exactly what I needed to give my boss to follow their rules. A lot of people do that. If they have someone in hospice or even the slightest warning someone is on death’s door or will be, they check the rules in advance. I know that when I start with a new company that actually has a handbook, I check basic rules like this, so I have a general clue as to A: where the rules about leave are, and B: what I have to do if I take various types of leave.

    2. Sunflower*

      I think it’s weird. I think it’s strange that Jane doesn’t have to send things directly to Payroll. At my last job- our HR was also accounts payable- even then my boss was not involved at all. Boss should only be involved once Jane has tried several other methods, talking directly with HR/Payroll and is getting nowhere and needs help on what to do.

  28. Rusty Shackelford*

    I think you need to back off. Maybe it’s because I’m not a manager, but I can’t imagine how this is YOUR problem at this point. You’ve done what you can. You’ve given Payroll what information you have. You’ve informed Jane that they’re not satisfied. If I were in your shoes (but again, I’m not a manager) I’d tell Payroll that you consider Jane’s circumstances legitimate, and that they have further issues, they need to discuss it with Jane. (And I say this because I think there’s a good chance they’ll be unwilling to do so, and they’ll ease up.)

    1. Erin*


      Yes, this. This back and forth is nuts. If Jane can’t provide what she needs to she needs to take it up with payroll. OP did not lay out this policy here.

    2. The IT Manager*

      As Jane’s manager, I’d expect to be working with payroll to determine if Jane’s days count as PTO/bereavement leave or unpaid time off. Now LW is tad too involved (don’t call the funeral home), but I don’t think it’s too odd for management to be in the loop and be the one relaying the messages from payroll.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Well, by now I would want to be out of the middle; I’d want to be in the loop, but I would want the two parties to speak directly to one another.

        1. AnonyMewo*

          This is what I was feeling uncomfortable about, just above! Thanks for putting it better than I could. :)

        2. Anna*

          Yes. CC’ed on an email is not the same as having the email addressed only to me and asking me to follow up with Jane. Payroll can talk directly to Jane and let me know how the discussion is going.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Initially, sure. “Jane, this is what Payroll requires.” She should have been involved at that point. But when it gets to the point where she’s considering contacting the funeral home herself, her involvement has gone way too far. I don’t think she should leave Jane hanging – like I said, I think she should inform Payroll that she considers the leave use legitimate (and if she doesn’t, that’s a whole nother can of worms) – but I don’t think should be involved in tracking down obits.

        1. Sunshine*

          Exactly this. I had a similar instance, and when it came time to “dig”, my HR group did the legwork. (In my case, he employee really was lying, and the story had enough holes that it was obvious. We wouldn’t normally go to that extreme.)

      3. LD*

        Yes. In most places I’ve worked, the next level manager has to approve the hours, especially when there are “exceptions” such as overtime, vacation or bereavement instead of only regular time, and sometimes the manager has to submit even then. So the manager is responsible for documentation to provide to payroll.

    3. Florida*

      It also matters that Jane is not a great employee. With Jane, I would say, “Since we don’t have the obituary, we have to count these as PTO (or unpaid absence or whatever). Once we get a copy of the obituary, we will reimburse you for the appropriate number of days.” And let Jane deal with payroll.
      I wouldn’t go to bat for Jane. I would go to bat for Superstar Honest Employee.

      1. Laura*

        Well said. This employee has already shown herself to be unreliable and untrustworthy. As crappy as the policy may be, she needs to adhere to it– and her higher-ups aren’t obligated to make any special accommodations for her.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        This is pretty much what I was thinking. Even if Jane were a superstar, she would probably still have to provide the information,at least until the policy officially changed (if it were going to). The “Jane isn’t the greatest employee” thing is really a separate issue.

        1. Florida*

          See, I think Jane is a crap employee is relevant. If Jane were a superstar, I would be willing to go to bat for her in terms of, “Payroll Manager, it seems that Jane’s family did not have a obit published. Do you think we can make a minor exception and use this letter from the funeral home? Or can we pay her her full salary in this paycheck and correct it in the next paycheck, if necessary, when she has had more time to get things together?” (Or whatever other accommodations you want to make.) Ultimately she would have to turn something in, but I’d be more willing to work with her and payroll to make it work.

          But since she’s a crap employee, I’d be tempted to say, “Look, Jane. The policy says you have to turn in the obit. Turn it in if you want to get paid.” (My tone might be a little different, but you get the idea.)

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I had a boss that would instruct us to do stupid things. One time I made the mistake of saying “Boss said do x”. It bit me because the boss said I should have presented it as if it were my own idea. (She was not nice while explaining this to me.)

      So I did, I presented things as if they were my idea. What happened next was very funny. The employees said, “No, that is not your idea. You don’t come up with stupid ideas like that. It must be Boss’ idea.”

      It could be that OP has relay the message as if it is her idea or her responsibility to relay the message.

  29. Katie the Fed*

    BTW – a little tangential but I have questions about this:

    “We accrue PTO time by number of hours worked, and it seems like whenever she has 8 hours saved up, she uses them right away even though i warn her against it. ”

    Is that really a manager’s business? If someone wants to use their leave when they get it, is it necessarily a problem as long as it’s not impacting their work?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I can see circumstances where it would be the manager’s business. If you know higher-ups frown on people not keeping at least a day on hand, and you want to make sure she’s aware of that. If you know of reasons she’ll have to use it in the future (holiday shut-downs, anticipating bad weather, etc.) and you want to remind her of those. If she has a history of using her PTO and then suffering emergencies (or “emergencies”) that require her to take unpaid leave, and you know it causes issues for payroll or that people up the chain of command will hold it against her. But if it’s simply that you don’t like her using it, yeah, I’m not sure why your opinion would matter. I mean, it’s not something I would do. I like to have at least a week banked. But that’s a personal choice, isn’t it?

    2. neverjaunty*

      That seemed a little weird to me too, but it may be a situation where Jane is not giving the company or her co-worker enough of a heads up. OP mentions ‘shifts’, so it could be that people are scrambling to cover her shifts for her if she “immediately” uses her PTO.

      Now, obviously, there should be a policy that you have to ask for this kind of PTO ahead of time and clear it with your manager – which puts us right back to the issue of Jane doing things that are unethical or reflect a poor work ethic because “nobody said explicitly that she couldn’t do X”, and then the company trying to backfill with rigid policies.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Yeah I was guessing this was more about Jane’s general unreliability and absenteeism, rather than an issue with using time as it’s accrued. Or they’ve reached BEC mode with Jane.

        1. Xanadu*

          I’ve seen this brought up elsewhere, but if her stepfather just died it’s entirely possible she’s eating up all her sick hours trying to help provide relief care to her mother. (I mean, maybe she’s out playing tennis, but that seems like an odd thing for the OP to leave out if they’re aware she’s just playing hooky)

          1. neverjaunty*

            We can speculate all day about what it is “possible” Jane is doing. I mean, for all we know based on not-in-the-letter, maybe she’s taking off extra time to foster sick kittens and distribute warm coats to orphans. But taking the OP at her word, there have been numerous issues with absenteeism, dishonesty, and attitude from Jane.

            1. Xanadu*

              I’m taking it in the context of the somewhat dysfunctional workplace policies surrounding bereavement.

              The two issues given were absenteeism, dishonesty, and attitude.

              1.) Absenteeism – she just had a close family member die. It is not unreasonable to think this is related. The OP also states that she’s taking PTO hours as soon as she accrues them. She does not mention that Jane has been talked to about this in any way and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to earn vacation and then use it.

              2.) Dishonesty – she was listed as “cheating” on a test. The OP clarifies they never told Jane this was something you could not seek help for, and in fact other posters have commented that for similar tests they are not required to do them alone.

              3.) Attitude – she made claims that the director said hurtful and inflammatory things about her. Possibly like she’s absent all the time and a cheater? Is that really an attitude? We have no proof the director didn’t say that, and considering that in this situation s/he “immediately erupts” I’m seeing how this person may have something of a reactive personality.

              You know what would cause my director to “immediately erupt”? Embezzlement, arson, weapons brought into the office, employees assaulting someone. Not “took 12 hours more to be with her dying father than company policy allows”.

              Hence, agreeing with Katie, this sounds a lot like BEC.

              1. Artemesia*

                I am having trouble imagining that someone thinks an aptitude test for employment is an activity you consult with others on. Really?

                1. nofelix*

                  Yes it’s fairly common that if you are given the test to take away, then consulting others for help is allowed. I’m taking a postgraduate professional qualification right now that allows this, just as an example. No plagiarism of course, but I have shown questions to a colleague and taken notes on what he suggested.

                  At last part of the rationale is that if you wanted test-takers to be strictly unaided then the only way to guarantee this is with a traditional closed-door exam. Giving them the ethical dilemma of whether to get help also gives any undetected cheaters an advantage.

                  But also, as with my course, the test is designed to assess skills that would normally be exercised in an office environment. So using office resources, such as colleague’s advice, is appropriate.

    3. Ad Astra*

      My guess is that using vacation as soon as it’s accrued is a big no-no in this company’s culture, and OP has spent so much time in that culture that she assumes a general audience would “know” that this behavior isn’t OK.

    4. LakeFisher*

      Not to mention, if her step dad is on Hospice maybe that is WHY she is taking every possible PTO day she could while he was still alive … just a thought.

  30. Erin*


    For what it’s worth, I know of someone who passed away for drug related reasons, and did not have their obituary published because of this person, um, basically owing certain other people money upon death and…truth to be told I don’t know the whole story, but it’s definitely possible there’s a legitimate reason an obituary was not published.

    Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt – he’s her stepfather, he died, she took that time, and there’s a real reason there’s no obit.

    Even if for argument’s sake that’s all true, she’s obviously cried wolf too many times. It’s hard to have sympathy for, and to trust someone, who has damaged their reputation so much. This is the bigger equivalent of, if she used up all her sick days to party, then got the flu. Sorry, but, too bad.

    You’ve already expressed your sympathy. I think now you need to take a little bit more of a no nonsense approach. Find out exactly what payroll will accept and what will happen if they don’t get it (will she just not get paid for those days?) and then lay that out for her. There should not be anymore back and forth. Either she provides it or she doesn’t, and the chips will fall where they may.

    Maybe something like, “Jane, because of your absentee issues in the past you do not have the standing for payroll to go on your word alone. Unfortunately, you are required to provide X – which is what was required of me when I used bereavement time, and what is required of all employees – and if this is not provided Y is going to happen.” Blah blah I already provided a note. Then, repeat: “I understand that, but if you don’t provide X by this date, Y will happen.”

    If you can, send her directly to payroll or to your director. “This isn’t up to me, it’s up to Lucinda, so I suggest you discuss your options with her.”

    1. Bookworm*

      I like your suggested wording…but only if the department has already been straightforward with Jane about her absentee issues.

      I’m not clear from this letter whether Jane *knows* these are a problems. The fact that she’s still taking her PTO immediately even though OP has spoken to her about it makes me wonder if OP has really communicated straightforwardly, or if it’s been more of a hinting/suggestion conversation.

      If OP hasn’t already laid that groundwork, then I think they just need to be patient.

    2. Jessie*

      It does really sound like the whole thing was actually legitimate (except for whether or not he died on Friday or Saturday) despite the missing obituary and the director (not the OP) is kind of being a jerk by acting like there’s no possible scenario where an obit wouldn’t be published when he thinks it should be. Frankly, it’s very possible that some of the trust issues stem from a bad relationship between this employee and the director.

      1. Searching*

        I don’t understand why this would be a lie. He has “a few hours” to live on Thursday night. He died on Saturday- maybe late at night, so 24-27 hours later, at most 36 hours later. Still a few to a grieving family (and its not like they have control over what doctors told them or his health!)

    3. TootsNYC*

      It sounds like Payroll is demanding these things just because That’s What They Need, and not because Payroll doesn’t trust Jane.

      1. Jessie*

        “He immediately erupts that she’s obviously lying and playing me for a fool.”

        That’s what I have a huge problem with. It looks like there was actually a workaround with Payroll in terms of documents, but her director was the the one chomping at the bit to call this a case of “faking a stepfather’s death.”

        1. KR*

          Upon a second read, this really stood out to me. Payroll doesn’t seem to be the one doubting Jane, but your boss (who you already know doesn’t like her) sure is.

  31. kylemazoo*

    Not everyone prints an obituary in the paper. When my brother died we never did. It is not a requirement for anyone to do so. It might be worth telling the HR folks that (not to change the policy, but just to make them aware that it might not be feasible to ever get the specific documentation they are requiring). We also didn’t get a death certificate until weeks later.

    1. TootsNYC*

      It is especially less likely now because many newspapers charge for it.

      Funeral homes often have forms that they fill in and send out for you; that’s what I used when I needed to provide documentation for a bereavement fare w/ an airline.

    2. Kate*

      Yeah, that was my first thought. Also, if there are religions or cultures in which obits are less frequent (I don’t know if that is true, but I imagine it might be), I would imagine there might be legal implications. But IANAL.

    3. Artemesia*

      Typically these days funeral homes publish an obituary on their website; these are not necessarily put in the newspaper. I don’t know if they require extra payment (except that funeral homes rarely do anything with out nickel diming.) If you go to a funeral home website and look up a recently deceased person there is usually a ‘guest book’ to write comments for the family and an obituary — so paying to put it in the paper is not necessary.

  32. Bookworm*

    OP, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. It must be really rough to be caught between the bureaucracy and a grieving employee.

    I definitely agree with Alison’s last paragraph. The real issue here is that there are trust issues with Jane. (Think about it, if a high performer came to you with this and explained that their family doesn’t do obits – some don’t – would this be happening?)

    The best thing to do is to tell Jane explicitly what payroll needs (proof that he’s deceased and their relationship) and, frankly, pay out that Friday even though he wasn’t officially dead. (It sounds like she was sitting by his bedside. I’ve been there, and I think that qualifies as bereavement, frankly.)

    Then, going forward, you need to be frank with her about the erosion of trust that’s been caused by some of her activities. It’s not clear from this letter whether or not she’s aware that she was almost fired, or that her taking PTO immediately is affecting the way that higher-ups look at her….but if she hasn’t been told explicitly, don’t assume she knows. It’s possible she thinks that there’s a healthy relationship there and now she’s baffled by the suspicion.

  33. Jessie*

    The ‘cheating on the test’ thing does sound rather ambiguous. We have a program at my work which requires an ‘entrance exam’, however, it’s not the sit down in a room and take a test kind of exam. It’s more like a project that you have to complete and write a report on within a one week, which can take anywhere from 10 to 20 hours of work. Currently they’re very explicit about what is and isn’t allowed in terms of resources (basically, you can google anything you want, or ask for a coworker for a resource on ‘teapot glazing’, but you’re not allowed to talk to anyone at work about the problem specifically.) However, I don’t think they were as explicit in the past and there were cases where some people got little too much assistance. Since you said the employee wasn’t necessarily clear on the fact that she couldn’t ask people in your department, it sounds like it might be that sort of situation.

  34. Anon for always*

    Is there a reason that Jane can’t use her PTO as soon as it’s accrued?

    If there are performance issues those obvious need to be addressed. If she can’t use her PTO as soon as it’s accrued due to staffing issues or some other issue then has that been clearly communicated to her?

    Perhaps Jane is trying to game the system by claiming bereavement leave when she’s not entitled to it, but unfortunately (especially give the very limited time provided) I think if there is any sort of implication that she may be lying about her situation it will make everyone look horrible. However, I am also wondering as payroll is requiring the documentation that from this point forward that payroll and Jane communicate directly. If, as her supervisor, you do not have the ability to override the policy, then to me it doesn’t make sense to have you as the middle man.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I’m guessing that (at least) one problem with using PTO as soon as it is accrued is the risk of not having any when an emergency happens. Like Jane’s funeral situation.

      1. Anon for always*

        But, Jane is an adult. That is the risk she is entitled to take. Even if it is stupid.

        If there is a requirement to have so much PTO banked for emergencies then there should be a policy that indicates this.

        1. neverjaunty*

          I think you’re missing the point. It’s not that the company requires Jane to bank PTO for emergencies. It’s that if Jane chooses to burn her PTO the moment she gets it, then she runs the risk of exactly this kind of situation, and she can’t really complain “but why can’t I have eve more leave?”

          1. C*

            That still doesn’t make it Jane’s manager’s/HR’s business what she does with her PTO, unless she is going over it.

    2. Manders*

      I’m also wondering if the reason Jane was using her leave right away was because she was either stressed about her stepfather’s illness, or acting as his caretaker or helping someone else who was taking care of him during the days. If there’s a business reason why PTO needs to be saved and taken in chunks, that needs to be made very clear to employees, because plenty of offices would allow an employee to use PTO the way Jane has been using it.

      1. nofelix*

        Yeah, I find it hard to believe that anyone is so desperate for a day’s holiday that they take it as soon as earned. Caring for a sick relative whenever possible though, that sounds likely.

  35. Ann O'Nemity*

    It sounds like the employer policy requires an obit. So the OP should have already (and should now) just simply tell Jane that she must provide an obituary for the bereavement days. In the future, the OP should just be straight forward with employees about this and not send them scrambling to obtain alternative documentation. I just don’t understand why the OP is having multiple conversations with HR, Jane, her own boss, and even thinking about contacting the funeral home. Just say that the obit is required and be done with it.

    1. KR*

      The choice about whether to have an obituary isn’t always up to one person, though. While this employer requires an obituary, the rest of the family might be vehemently opposed to having one and Jane might not have a say in the matter. I think the OP (and the company, but they aren’t the one asking for advice) needs to be sensitive to the fact that all the required documentation might not exist for every death.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        I don’t think this is the hill the OP wants to die on, at least not for Jane and her previous history. Sounds like the OP has already done more than enough trying to mediate.

  36. AdminSue*

    We have basically the same policy here and every place I have worked. It has never been a problem with me. The only time there was ever an issue was when an employee here had used up all his time off, and said his grandmother passed away and he needed to be off Monday for the funeral. When we asked him for the obituary, he came clean and said he lied! I was shocked!!

    OP, the only thing I would suggest is what someone else had said, as soon as you get us what we need, we will pay you for the three days.

  37. Aunt Vixen*

    Ugh, this is awful for everyone. But the solution to Jane’s performance and absenteeism issues has to, has to be separate from any skepticism anyone has about her bereavement leave. JFC. Spend the day’s wages that she may not, per the strictest possible reading of the policy, “deserve,” and consider that what you’re getting is a staffwide morale boost when they realize you’re going to pay attention to their general time management and performance and so on and not nickel and dime them over the death of a parent.

    I was going to say OP needs to pivot away from the bereavement issue almost entirely and say something like “Jane, when you’re feeling up to it, let’s talk about ways to manage your time and your relationship with Director,” but that’s not even the actual question. Payroll needs some sort of proof of her relationship with her stepfather? That’s gross. Can you, as her manager, go to bat for her on this one? “Look, my employee has provided an obituary and a statement from the department of vital statistics and she’s done so while she’s mourning her stepfather. I’m not going to make her prove that this man was married to her mother. Please approve her bereavement leave.”

    I suppose if you want to you could keep a record somewhere of people’s bereavement leave usage–probably each individual should be allowed up to eight parents and sixteen grandparents, accounting for in-laws and remarriages–and once they’ve maxed those out, that’s that. This is in the same vein as college midterms and finals being suspiciously fatal to grandmothers. But that’s probably more work than anyone or anyone’s payroll department wants to put in, isn’t it? It would certainly cost more in both time and goodwill than I’d want to spend.

    (My current workplace has the same allowances for bereavement leave, btw, and by “day” they mean “eight hours,” so when I was away from my 9/80 work schedule for two days for my uncle’s funeral, I had to find two more hours in a different leave bank. I agree that other arrangements could be better, but such is the life of a contractor – if I don’t bill the client, my company doesn’t make money with which to pay me. … They do, however, take employees’ word for it when someone has died. Requiring proof is just gross.)

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      +1 to separating any other issues from the bereavement – it won’t help Jane improve in other areas if she’s seeing the workplace as this awful place wanting impossible things (proof of relationship! How is that even possible? I can’t imagine how I’d prove I was related to my stepmother!)

  38. The IT Manager*

    I applaud the office for having a clear bereavement leave policy. There are some problems with the policy itself (as many commenters point out), but it is super clear including the fact that it requires an obituary for the employee’s PTO to be processed. While I agree that 3 days is short time to deal with the death of a close family member, you can’t expect the company to offer bereavement leave for however long it takes to recover when the employee can take regular PTO and unpaid time off if needed. The same for people to have to travel across country or the globe versus people who have to travel across town. They’re also clear about which relationships gets 3 days, which gets 1, and which get none. Frankly it sounds like Jane is the kind of person that caused these strict policies to be written for. You’d trust the good employees not to abuse bereavement leave; you don’t trust employees like Jane so you write out hard and fast rules. Make Jane abide by the rules like everyone else has done.

    I agree with this part of Alison’s advice: “… tell Jane what the policy requires, specifically. An obituary that lists her or her mother as relatives? Something else? Find out what your company will accept, and then let Jane know. …. I would not call the funeral home yourself ”

    Tell Jane that for the days to be counted a PTO rather than unpaid, she needs to provide an obituary (with whatever details are required). Keep telling Jane this. It sounds like that Jane will end up with negative PTO unless the obituary comes through, but count it as unpaid until she provides what the company requires. This is not the person to die on this hill for. As others commenters point out, there are flaws in the policy, but don’t fight for Jane who seems really shady, has a history of integrity problems, and is quite possibly lying to get a long weekend off.

    1. Person of Interest*

      Agreed – the policy is pretty standard and is really the only way a company can “fairly” apply the offer of free PTO to a wide variety of individual circumstances. It doesn’t mean that individuals can’t work out additional use of their banked PTO for their personal situations/needs with their managers, who will make those decisions based on the employee’s workload, trust level, circumstances, etc.

      In this case, it sounds like the best the OP can do is say to Jane “I sympathize with your situation and I am very sorry for your loss. As I’ve explained, the standard policy for bereavement leave is X. HR will work with you to ensure your time is processed correctly, per the policy.” There’s no need for OP to be so caught in the middle of this, especially since it sounds like OP has limited management over Jane, with the director having perhaps more authority for disciplinary action.

  39. Bee Eye LL*

    I think this is a clear example of what can happen when an employee betrays the company’s trust (i.e. caught cheating) and in turn it makes supervisors question everything they do, right down to deaths in the family. I would definitely seek some kind of proof, though very gently, but honestly you should have fired her for cheating on the promotion exam and been done with his person. If you can’t trust them, why are you keeping them on staff?

  40. Ravenista*

    OP, this is not the time to pick a battle with Jane.

    I with AAM. Let this go. Then watch like a hawk after for fireable offenses. This is not the one to go to war over.
    Whether they like her or not, whether she’s awful or not, her colleagues are going to see what happens here and internalize it. You do NOT want that message to be that they’ll have to worry for their jobs while on leave for a death in the family.

    1. neverjaunty*

      You also do NOT want the message to be “hey, if you’re Jane, all you have to do is throw a fit and the rules don’t apply, whereas the rest of you better toe the line”. And I suspect Jane’s co-workers are already pretty disgruntled at what Jane gets away with.

      1. C*

        Yes neverjaunty, we get that. But you’re presuming things about the other employees that we have no information on. We shouldn’t presume what the rest of the staff is feeling about Jane. It’s not in the LW post, so we can’t guess.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          Yeah, I have to say, I don’t have patience for coworkers who don’t do their share of the work and have ethical issues… but if anything could make me do a hairpin turn from “ugh, why not get rid of Jane already” to “geez, that’s a really awful way to treat Jane,” it would be dicking someone around on bereavement leave for a close relative, and especially any hint that she was being accused of making it up.

          I do get that OP doesn’t have much control over the bereavement/PTO/paperwork issue, and probably can’t make Payroll back off on the insistence over an obituary, but I agree that this is very much not the place to make a stand otherwise re: Jane’s issues. Seeing someone be accused of faking a death in the family would swing my sympathy towards them even if it was someone I pretty thoroughly disliked, and as a coworker it would really hurt morale and my perception of the company if I found out it was going on.

        2. neverjaunty*

          I… actually agree with Ravenista that OP’s other employees will be watching this, so not sure why the snark?

      2. Mookie*

        But where is this “fit” she’s thrown? The funeral home confirmed that a death occurred and that Jane was in attendance for planning a ceremony and for the ceremony proper. If the rules are being skirted, it’s in name only.

          1. Mookie*

            But the note was attached to a forwarded e-mail, presumably from the same domain as the funeral home’s website…? The concern initially was documenting the correct “date of passing,” which was then confirmed through county records (but didn’t include Jane’s relationship with the deceased, which, obviously, it wouldn’t, anyway.) Jane doesn’t sound like a past master at this fibbing game, but I’m not sure what the OP suspects versus what she or her director wouldn’t put past Jane, but there’s really no evidence OP’s given us of anything doctored or assumed to be so.

      3. KR*

        I didn’t see where Jane threw a fit. I saw where she was flustered a week after her step-father died which could be for any number of reasons (hadn’t recently read the bereavement policy, is stressed and still grieving, forgot to have one written and was kicking herself in the moment) and I saw when she got defensive. I wouldn’t have gotten as upset as her personally, but if she hasn’t had a lot of death in her family or loved her step-father a lot there’s a good chance it’s hard for her to talk about this without getting emotional.

  41. Meg*

    Without addressing the appropriateness policy (as Alison requested) – it’s possible to prove that the step-father was the step-father without an obit. Mom could get a copy of her marriage license (again – not addressing whether this is reasonable). Its possible that step-dad wasn’t really step-dad, but was actually, mom’s long term partner that was like a step-dad. Since OP knows that Jane wasn’t lying about the man’s death and funeral, even if the relationship isn’t established, this may be a case where the right thing to do is to just move on. If Jane is as big a problem as described above, she is going to do something else to get herself fired.

    1. TootsNYC*

      But Payroll won’t let our OP move on. This is really not about the OP’s trust or distrust of Jane. It’s about the Documentation and the Paperwork (proper-noun treatment intentional).

    2. Mando Diao*

      That kind of stuck out for me too. As annoying as it is, it’s pretty easy to prove your relation to someone. It doesn’t stop at “We don’t have the same last name, and the fact-checking stops there.”

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Genuinely don’t know how I’d prove my relationship to my stepmother, apart from showing sheaves of photos with her in them, because if it was 3 days after my dad’s wife died, I would definitely not be hassling him to scan his marriage certificate for me, because he would have SO much more on his mind than caring about a ridiculous payroll rule.

        1. KR*

          Exactly. They might even have a common law marriage and not actually be married – but there’s no way I would be bothering a grieving widow to find her marriage certificate and scan it and send it to me a week after her husband died. My mom’s been dead for about 8 years and my dad still avoids looking at any marriage certificates or wedding photos.

        2. Temperance*

          I imagine that the obituary plus a copy of your birth certificate would be enough to do it. It’s proving your relationship to your dad and his marriage to his wife.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            My family is not an obituary type family, and even if we were, having an obit for a woman with a different surname to my father’s, which is different to mine, isn’t going to help.

            1. Temperance*

              Hypothetically, though, if you were an obituary family, wouldn’t it say Jane Smith, wife of Bob Jones, etc. etc.?

              1. Zillah*

                In this hypothetical obituary, how would “Jane Smith, wife of Bob Jones” be helpful to a Sarah Summers?

                1. Zillah*

                  I also just looked up my grandmother’s obituary, and the only thing it gave was her birth date, the date she passed away, and the town she lived in. (It was just attached to the funeral home – I don’t think our family put an obituary in any paper or anything.) We happen to share last names, but if we didn’t, there’s nothing in it that would be helpful in establishing a relationship. My great-grandmother and I didn’t share last names, and I think I’d have needed multiple birth/marriage certificates to prove that one (no obit for her either).

                  Thankfully, no one asked me to when either of them passed away.

    3. Temperance*

      The obit is what’s necessary, though. It sounds like Jane might have misrepresented the time spent as bereavement so she didn’t have to use a PTO day, which is pretty crappy behavior.

      1. Mando Diao*

        I had this thought too, and I was struggling with how to phrase it gently. When Jane told her manager, “My stepdad is going to die tomorrow,” she knew that she was triggering the policy. We’d all like to be there when a family member is suffering, but if the employer doesn’t have a generous leave policy in place, it’s inappropriate to assume that your grief is more important or valid than other employees who have stuck to the policy, especially since the employer seems to allow for unpaid days off beyond the paid bereavement period. This is tricky because Jane’s situation falls within the approved 3-day window, so I wonder what stance she’d be taking if her stepdad lived an extra day or two longer.

        While my other comments have focused on the morale of the other employees, this time I’ll focus on Jane. She seems to have a long history of thinking that the rules don’t apply to her. I would be suspicious that she’s not providing an obituary because she doesn’t want it on record that she lied about the date of the death.

        1. Xanadu*

          Yeah, but she fudged the numbers by what, 24 hours tops? A medical professional can’t look at you and say “Your dad is going to die at 6pm on Sunday, so be there.”

          When my dad recently died they told me it would likely be 2-3 days. He died 12 hours later. There is no certainty, they can only tell you when things start going downhill. Taking a day from “the call” to actually expire is common, reasonable, and taking her to task for it could be seen as yelling at her for not having ESP.

          If the hospital/hospice/palliative care service tells you it’s getting close, you take them at their word for it as a general rule.

          1. Temperance*

            She went out of her way to either falsify a note from the funeral home or badger them to create a false note for her in order to get out of using PTO. That’s a jerk move.

            1. fposte*

              I don’t know that it’s false–it’s not uncommon to communicate with the funeral home in advance of the death.

              1. Temperance*

                That’s fair. I think I am biased because she admitted her lie and was acting so sneaky about the whole thing.

                1. Natalie*

                  Ah, but if you accept that she may have been interacting with the funeral home on Friday, there’s no place where she has “admitted” that she lied. The OP uses a particular wording (“let it slip”) that implies a lie, but doesn’t say anywhere that Jane ever actually said her stepdad died Friday, and then admitted it was actually Saturday. The whole thing is colored by OP being in BEC mode with Jane.

                2. Oryx*

                  I’m still not sure what like you are referring. On Monday she told the OP her step-father died over the weekend.

        2. Sunflower*

          If I was Jane, and I was a good employee, this entire situation would be a damn headache on top of work and dealing with a death. If I were her I would be desperate to just get this thing handled and over with. Why has she not approached payroll or OP and said ‘what do I need to take care of this? If I don’t have an obit, what else will work?’. It feels to me that she is handling this indirectly and is hoping people will get tired of it and let it go

          1. Xanadu*

            Could be a reflection of other stuff going on too – my dad just died and I had about 5 days worth of paperwork and forms that I had to get filled out in order to, you know, get his corpse put into the ground.

            Third proof for benefits to HR (on top of funeral home note and link to death certificate) would be pretty low on my list, mainly because I’d already be at wit’s end that they were hassling me at the funeral on top of all that.

          2. Temperance*

            That’s what it seems like she is doing. The note from the funeral home purposely didn’t include dates of services or dates of death, which makes me think that she’s really doubling down on everyone getting bored of asking her for these things so she can get the extra day off. Which is pretty jerky.

            1. C*

              Purposely?? There are a lot of folks on this thread presuming things that are nowhere in LW’s letter. Let’s stick to the facts, maybe?

              1. Temperance*

                Jane admitted that she lied about his date of death. While you are right that it doesn’t say that she asked them to leave it out, everything she does is going to be seen through the lens of suspicion.

                1. Sunflower*

                  Whoa Jane didn’t admit anything or lie. OP kind of jumped there. Jane said it was over the weekend- to me, I would actually count that as a Saturday or Sunday which would mean that Jane told the truth. It’s incredibly possible Jane thought he would die on Friday and he didn’t until Saturday.

                  I agree Jane is acting strange but I don’t believe there is any proof she made it up.

                2. C*

                  I think it’s time for maybe Alison to chime in to remind commenters that we shouldn’t:

                  a) Make presumptions about people’s motivations or behaviors that are not addressed at all in the letter writer’s posts
                  b) Make stuff up

        3. Temperance*

          That’s what I think as well. The note from the funeral home was either falsified or purposely vague. She had the energy and wherewithal to reach out to the funeral home’s assistant for a note, but couldn’t just provide a copy of the obituary or funeral card?

          I’ve seen a lot of commenters point out that not everyone has an obituary, but that’s not the issue here. It’s that she tried to get out of providing the documentation because she lied in order to get an extra day off for bereavement when she should have or could have used PTO.

          1. I Get That Reference*

            That may be a function of the awkwardness of the request. I can’t imagine they have to write notes for many people who are dealing with their parents funerals for work like they’re recalcitrant students. Funeral homes are also incredibly emotionally sensitive to people who are going through a loss. I can’t imagine they’d want to write “oh yeah and he died on Saturday btw” as part of a letter that’s already fairly awkward.

            Source: the nice people at the funeral home that went to bat with the poophead pastor the church insisted we used to try and insulate me from having to deal with it.

          2. Elsajeni*

            “… couldn’t just provide a copy of the obituary or funeral card? I’ve seen a lot of commenters point out that not everyone has an obituary, but that’s not the issue here.”

            But this basically just says “I understand that not everyone has an obituary, but I KNOW that Jane’s stepfather had one, so the fact that she didn’t just provide it is proof she’s lying about something.” Unless you know Jane personally, you can’t know that. There’s no evidence in the letter to suggest that there was an obituary that she’s keeping secret, and in fact there’s some evidence that there genuinely hasn’t been an obituary published (the funeral home’s note refers to the obituary not being ready, the OP searched online but couldn’t find one). Why are you so sure you know exactly what happened?

      2. Marissa*

        I’m not sure why that is classified as “crappy” behaviour. You can’t grieve unless, and until, the relative has died? Seems like she expected her step-father to pass on Friday, took the day off to be with him in his last hours, but it didn’t happen until Saturday. Payroll may ask to classify Friday as PTO instead, but it is not a “crappy” thing to take the day off to be by a relative’s bedside.

        1. Temperance*

          Just to be clear, I think her lying is the crappy behavior. She knowingly misrepresented his day of death in order to get an extra day off without it impacting her PTO.

          Bereavement leave is for funerals and related activities. Not visiting someone in the hospital, or hospice.

          1. Oryx*

            We don’t know that she knowingly lied about the day of his death. She may have honestly thought he was expected to die on Friday.

            1. Temperance*

              She lied *after* he passed, though. She was asked for the obituary, and provided the note instead, and when her supervisor asked for the obituary, she admitted that he died on Saturday instead of Friday.

              1. Oryx*

                Thursday: Jane texts OP that her step-father is expected to die Friday.
                [Insert weekend]
                Monday: Jane tells OP her step-father died “over the weekend.”

                I don’t see that as lying or as misrepresentation. Jane straight up said her step-father died over the weekend. If the OP lumped Friday into the weekend, that’s on her.

              2. Oryx*

                Also, the Saturday thing only came up because the OP kept pushing Jane for documentation she does not have and is unable to provide for whatever reason and the documentation she DID provide isn’t good enough.

                Imagine coming back from your step-father’s funeral and your supervisor instantly requesting documentation you don’t have, arguing they need to be able to prove your Friday bereavement time off was allowed. Then you have to admit “Well, okay, so he actually died Saturday” and suddenly this becomes a whole big Thing because he didn’t die soon enough for your HR to approve the time.

                1. Temperance*

                  I guess this is where I seem unsympathetic, because I work at a large corporate place, but Jane knew the policy and knew what she needed to provide to get the time off as bereavement, as well as what counted as bereavement vs. PTO.

                  It doesn’t seem outrageous to me at all that payroll would need the documentation that quickly, and that only certain documentation would be appropriate. You can’t really make exceptions to these policies for one person, especially a low performer, because everyone will expect them. The fact that she wasn’t forthcoming with the information and documentation is a black mark, for me.

          2. Kelly L.*

            How did she misrepresent it? The way I read it, she only said the word “Friday” before the fact, when he was still alive but expected to pass on Friday. That he made it one more day doesn’t mean she lied. She used the info she had available at the time.

  42. TootsNYC*

    I disagree with Alison, for the first time ever, I think.

    I think Jane’s untrustworthiness is completely beside the point. Or, at least, it’s not the main point; it only flavors the interaction in general, bcs the OP and her director are letting it color the entire interaction.

    If Jane were a stellar employee (say, Reliable Richard), the OP would still have this problem:
    Her payroll people are insisting on documentation that Jane can’t provide; Richard might easily not be able to produce it either.
    The goal is to get Jane and payroll to sit down w/ the OP and figure out what sort of documentation would be acceptable. Would Payroll accept a letter from her mother? From anyone who officiated over the service? What will work?

    I would absolutely start from the point of view that these things are true:
    -this is Jane’s stepfather
    -Being there before he died was probably way more important than being there after, so if I could persuade payroll and the company to acknowledge that Friday, before the death, as bereavement leave, I would; personally, I would take it as far up the food chain as I thought I could possibly get away with. Head of HR, definitely; maybe even, in some organizations, I’d would have taken it to the CEO. “Please make an exception in this case, and perhaps it would be good to change our policy.”
    -this is a matter of simply needing a piece of paper to go in the file
    -it is my obligation as Jane supervisor to assist when she has trouble navigating through the corporate maze, or when interacting with other departments. Sure, I need to be sensitive to privacy, etc., but facilitating communication, and bringing any weight I might have, is my job.
    -it is my obligation, as a human being, to help w/ communication in a situation when someone who works for me is in a mental or emotional state that makes this difficult.

    So I’d be making an appointment for me and Jane to meet with payroll and hash this out. From the point of view, “Jane is totally entitled to this time; what documentation do we need to come up with?”

    It sounds like you’d have all these problems no matter which employee this was–even if it was Reliable Richard.
    Not trusting the employee has nothing to do with it–payroll apparently won’t let the OP say, “Oh, we trust Richard implicitly, so his leave is approved.” Payroll wants Documentation.

    1. fposte*

      This is a really good point–that it’s not really about the OP’s acceptance but about the paperwork. If OP is making the (IMHO, wise) choice to take Jane at her word, she needs to address the paperwork problem.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I actually completely agree (and don’t think that’s in conflict with what I said in the post!). The trust problems are a separate issue (that really need to be dealt with, but separately).

      1. TootsNYC*

        I think what’s happening is that this situation, whose components are not particularly unique to Jane, are exposing the existing fault lines.

    3. Mando Diao*

      This is the point I was dancing around. Jane got the time off; there’s no backtracking on that. But the fact of the matter is that, whatever any of us might think, Jane can’t be paid for those days until all the boxes are checked.

    4. Meg Murry*

      I very much agree with this, and agree that it’s the manager’s job to help her employees navigate the payroll paperwork/hoop jumping process – whether it is Jane or Reliable Richard.

      However, I wonder if part of the problem is also that Jane is out of PTO – if it was Reliable Richard and he had 3+ PTO days on the books, I could see payroll saying “I’ll have to charge those 3 days as PTO, however, once you provide the documentation I can credit back the PTO and change them to bereavement leave”. But if Jane doesn’t have 3 days of PTO and the company has a no-negative PTO policy, that would make this harder.

  43. Hello Felicia*

    We had a temp worker last summer who asked for a week of leave via the temp company when her mother died. I assumed she’d actually be out two weeks or so. I told the temp agency it was fine and then I began looking online for the funeral home so we could send flowers. I didn’t find the funeral home, but did find the mother’s Facebook account. Which was still active. It didn’t really affect our scheduling as we were in a bit of a slow period, so I was planning to just let it go although with keeping a close eye out for other problems. Except that it was seven months before she let me know she was ready to come back. At that point the temp agency had told us in no uncertain terms that they wouldn’t rehire her even though we’d not complained or even mentioned it to them (we have a lot of temps working, and we’d just hired a couple of extras who also covered what she was supposed to be doing). I was pretty floored when it happened, this girl talked about her mom a lot. A. Lot. I don’t know how she was planning to pull off never mentioning her again.

      1. Kelly L.*

        This. I know of lots of dead people whose FBs aren’t memorialized–as I understand, it’s more of a pain to do it than just to leave it, so a lot of people just leave it.

        1. ann perkins*

          Yep, my Dad died about 9 months ago and we keep his page active so we can tag him in stuff. He loved checking in everywhere he went, so now as a family we still check him in with us. I find it oddly comforting.

        2. KT*

          Yes, it’s a real hassle to get FB accounts taken down.It requires a lot of documents that aren’t easy to come by. Keeping an account up is fairly common. I have known people who would “manage” the account and occasionally post remembrances.

        3. MsChanandlerBong*

          Yeah, same here. It’s really weird to see “Richard Smith is playing Words with Friends” when Richard Smith has been dead since 2012. There’s an option to be matched with a random opponent who is not even on your friends list, so people keep sending him game requests even though he died almost four years ago!

          1. Temperance*

            One of my aunts died suddenly – killed by a DD – and her FB kept sending random updates for games etc. It sucked.

  44. animaniactoo*

    I think that I would address this in the realm of the previous absenteeism:

    “Jane, I’m really sorry, but given the absenteeism issues that we’ve discussed before, HR is being strict about the company policy here. I know this comes at an awful time, but here’s what I’ve figured out that you can provide that will fulfill what they’re requiring.” Your help is limited to saving her the thinking of what documents she can supply to get her bereavement pay – her birth certificate listing her mom’s name, her mother’s marriage license/decree, etc. You don’t call the funeral home for the obituary – it’s up to her to provide it or not.

    And then – this comes at an awful time, sure – but it sounds like the hard line being drawn IS the direct results of Jane’s previous actions and you shouldn’t work yourself overtime to save her from them.

    Normal standard policy, you did it that way when you were in her position, used your PTO when you were told you had to, this is what the policy is, *everybody* does it this way.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Note: Amend this to “unless HR/Payroll is ALWAYS strict about appropriate documentation”.

      I didn’t have to provide an obit, I just had to notify my boss, but I’m pretty sure the official company policy is that you have to provide a death certificate or something and then you get retroactively paid.

    2. Call Me Anything But Late To Dinner*


      Every employee gets a handbook or copy of company policy usually and whether or not they paid attention initially, there it is and it shouldn’t be taken personally. Because of a death in our family numerous relatives had to provide documentation to be eligible for bereavement leave. Not having an obit complicated that but it was a simple matter of asking the HR reps what would serve instead. Some accepted the funeral homes prayer cards, two accepted a faxed copy of the death certificate with relevant info redacted and another family member just asked their boss to call the funeral home, which was ok with all parties. This policy for paid leave is pretty standard and as untidy as it is grief-wise, it’s part of being an adult. Some employers have discretion in this but most don’t. It’s definitely a matter for HR and the individual the boss’s hands are tied in this instance.

  45. animaniactoo*

    Fwiw, I left work on a Thursday afternoon having been told that I only had a few hours, and my grandfather hung on for another 30. I had zero expectation of being paid for the extra day out of any bereavement portion. I’d have taken it unpaid, PTO, whatever. And I similarly have a rep for running through my PTO early. On the other side of that, I have a rep for being a really hard worker who gets my stuff done well and on time, and making sure I am always available (except for that time) to deal with stuff that comes up when I’m out of the office. Which is to say – I agree with Alison that you have a Jane problem in general.

    “HR only decided to keep her because I had not specifically told her that she should not get help from others in that department on the test. ”

    There are things in life you should not have to specifically spell out. They should be self-evident. Is there a good reason – in your opinion – why this should not have been self-evident?

  46. lowercase holly*

    i would say when watching her like a hawk for further issues, probably don’t bring this specific incident into it as an example of the pattern. just use the earlier non-bereavement time incidents. just skip this one entirely as an example of unwanted behavior.

    i think all you can do here is let her know payroll’s policy and leave it at that.

  47. hbc*

    I think you can’t make your lack of trust of Jane turn this issue into the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s pretty reasonable for Jane to have believed the hospice that her stepdad was going to die that day, and to not have been in the mood to pore over exactly how her bereavement days fell. Your company is willing to lose 24 hours of work for bereavement, she used 24 hours–pretty much used as intended, assuming the story isn’t 100% fabricated.

    Is this how a faker might be playing it? Sure. But it’s also a pretty reasonable way for a grieving person to act. (I don’t think I could “prove” my relationship to anyone related to me by marriage in that kind of time frame, including my own husband.) Maybe this is Exhibit F of Jane being difficult and shady, but if her colleagues see that she’s being pestered because her documentation isn’t good enough and her relative “unfortunately” lived another couple of hours, they’re not going to have good feelings about the company.

    If she really is that big of a problem, you’ll have a more ironclad, less emotion-laden issue to stand your ground on soon enough.

    1. hbc*

      Though looking back at the letter, the paperwork requirement might be out of your control. So I would just treat your part of it neutrally/sympathetically, rather than drawing conclusions about fake stepfathers or whatever.

    2. Student*

      If she really was a faker, I think she’d have just run an obit in a local paper to get her days off.

      1. Florida*

        I can’t speak for every newspaper, but the major newspaper here will not run an obituary unless it is submitted by a funeral home/crematory/etc. You, as an individual, can’t call up and place an obituary. I guess faking deaths is a common enough thing that they require proof.

    3. Miss Betty*

      “It’s pretty reasonable for Jane to have believed the hospice that her stepdad was going to die that day…”

      Yes. When my grandfather died, they called us to the hospital on December 3 at noon. He surprised everyone, including the end of life specialist, by rallying, actually having a little bit of breakfast the next morning, and being released to the nursing home. He hung on till January 10. No one had any reason to believe he’d live another 5 weeks after the called us in. The end of life specialists and hospice workers are usually right about such things but they can be surprised by their patients. If another relative were in the end of life and we got that call, I’d still go, despite the experience with my grandfather.

      Jane’s stepdad dying the day after she called doesn’t indicate anything other than he held on a little longer than hospice thought he would.

  48. Macedon*

    Bit unsure what you mean by absenteeism in this case, OP – does she just randomly go missing for a day as soon as she accrues eight hours? Or does she give you (admittedly short) notice she will be taking the following day off? Because if the latter is not against your policies (if against your personal advice), then… I don’t see the issue. It’s inefficient, but. if that’s how she rolls? Also a bit unclear on the ethical dilemmas she’s posed, but will assume they are serious.

    It sounds honestly as if you have a problematic employee who has used up the token good will your office would generally extend someone in her position. The funerary situation isn’t that unreasonable to me — not your bereavement policy; no comment on your policy — as delays, bureaucracy and misunderstandings have come with the territory of every funeral I’ve had the misfortune to attend. They can genuinely just happen.

    But your workmates and you are already to the point where you’re less keen to give Jane the benefit of the doubt, and this should signal to you that you should just pass this for bereavement leave (whether you believe it was or not), give it a week, then have a discussion with Jane about supplying her two-three months to find another job. Because you can’t work with someone you don’t trust not to lie about the death of her father – and you all seem to have reached that point regarding Jane.

    I lied. I do have a word for your company’s bereavement policy: disgusting.

    1. Jade*

      This comment sounds like it sums up the office opinion of Jane pretty well. I second the suggestion here- she’s not working out at your workplace, if for no other reason than she doesn’t seem to fit the culture well. I wouldn’t do it yet, because it’ll look like they’re firing her over taking off for a funeral. But if it turns out she *did* lie about the funeral, or whatever next incident comes up, she should be shown the door.

  49. Sunflower*

    Jane sounds like an employee you don’t really care to have. If this person was a high performer and you didn’t want to lose her, I would approach this situation very differently but I think in this case, you want to be compassionate and do what’s required of policy and then let what happens happen. I would ask payroll what the policy is if the family decides to not publish an obit and you can relay that information to Jane. I would be compassionate and let her know if she needs to take any additional PTO to feel free and let you know, but also let her know ‘this is the policy for beaverment leave. If you can’t produce what they need, then you’ll have to use PTO for the days off (if that’s the case)’

    Then I’d let it go. I feel like this is way more involved than a manager needs to be. It seems like Jane is already upset and feels like she is being interrogated. I’m not sure if getting payroll/HR to throw her a bone is going to make her feel better about the crappy policy. Quite frankly it seems like Jane being pissed off and quitting might be the best possible situation here?

    If all plays out and Jane still works there in a few months, I would sit down with her and explain your issues with absenteeism/taking time off. I also think only talk to her about the using PTO as soon as it’s available if it’s a truly an issue. I understand a company wanting an employee to have 1-3 days of PTO always on retainer but I would let that go if it’s really something that simply bothers you and not an actual problem.

    I agree with Allison that you should be watching Jane but it sounds like you might be dealing with an HR department that is hesitant to fire anyone so even if you watch Jane like a hawk, is there any way you’ll be able to fire her for bad performance? If not, I can see why the director is so keen on getting her for this considering it’s a seemingly clear violation of policy and there is no technicality for her to get through as there was with the test.

  50. Jade*

    I don’t know about this. It seems like this manager did her job of informing Jane of what documentation she would need in order to collect bereavement pay, and Jane has not produced it. Where I work (and this may sound harsh) it wouldn’t really matter if it was Jane’s fault or the funeral home’s or whatever; if you don’t produced the documents, your pay is delayed until the documents arrive. So if the obituary is required but hasn’t been produced yet, then payroll should be within their rights to withhold payment of bereavement until the next pay period, or whenever it is the obituary is produced. Not only that, but since it was acknowledged that Jane took a day off prior to the death, which is not covered by the bereavement policy, they technically would be within their rights to automatically charge Jane PTO for that one day as well.

    However, what payroll is within their rights to do according to the policy and what is the right thing to do for Jane and her managers’ image can be two different things. They’re already in this mess, so I would take the advice of AAM and just let this incident slide, but going forward make it a point to inform employees that benefits will NOT be paid until documentation arrives, and that PTO can and will be withheld for time used outside of the policy.

    1. Student*

      Withholding pay for any reason can quickly enter legal territory. It’s almost never the correct response to a problem with an employee. There are other options on how ot handle this.

      1. Florida*

        They are withholding pay because Jane didn’t show up for work – nothing illegal there. Bereavement pay is not a legal right. It is a benefit the organization offers provided that the employee submits the required documentation. That documentation has not been submitted.

        I agree with you that there are other options. But there is nothing illegal about withholding pay because an employee missed work, and didn’t submit the necessary paperwork to payroll.

        1. Kate M*

          Uh no, not if she’s a salaried exempt employee. Isn’t the law, “Salaried exempt employees must receive their full salary in any week in which they perform any work, subject to certain very limited exceptions.” (FLSA) Isn’t that correct?

          1. Ashley*

            No, that’s not correct.

            Exempt employees can be docked only in full day increments if off for personal reasons. They can’t be docked for partial days , unless the first/last day of employment.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            So, it’s trickier than that. The law states: “Deductions from pay may be made when an exempt employee is absent from work for one or more full days for personal reasons, other than sickness or disability. Thus, if an employee is absent for two full days to handle personal affairs, the employee’s salaried status will not be affected if deductions are made from the salary for two full-day absences. However, if an exempt employee is absent for one and a half days for personal reasons, the employer can deduct only for the one full-day absence.”

          3. Florida*

            If you only work Monday-Thursday, they don’t have to pay you for Friday. Often a company will pay you for Friday because you used PTO, sick day, bereavement, or whatever they want to call it. But there is no legal requirement to pay you for Friday. But if you show up Monday-Thursday, then yes, they have to pay you for those four days.

          4. Doreen*

            There’s an exception for full day absences for personal reasons other than sickness or disability

        2. Jade*

          Yes Florida, you get my point. I wasn’t saying earned pay would be withheld- just the bereavement pay, which is a benefit, not earned pay, as you stated. As far as PTO, that is a benefit as well, and if I remember correctly, it has been brought up on this site before that employers can withhold PTO without the employee’s permission, like if the office is closed due to weather they can charge everyone a day of PTO to cover it. If OP had worked those days and the company was refusing to pay her for it, *that* would be illegal.

      2. Ashley*

        Not quote. Withholding pay for hours worked is illegal. Even exempt workers can be legally docked full day’s pay for missed time that is due to personal reason.

    2. LakeFisher*

      I did not read it that way. Company asked for an obituary, Jane provided it, now they are claiming that obituary is not good enough? How is Jane not in compliance here?

      1. Florida*

        Jane didn’t provide an obit. She provided a letter from the funeral home that said she was there on certain days.

  51. Chriama*

    Oh man, OP, this is kind of a clusterfudge. Payroll is being weirdly strict about the bereavement leave policy here. I get why Jane would be upset – she had a close family member die and when she gets back to work her boss is hounding her to “prove” he really died and that he was a close family member. I don’t think it’s necessarily your fault, but you asked for the obit and she doesn’t have it yet, and she provided other documents but you keep coming back and telling her it’s not enough. I think at some point you needed to tell Jane that the obit is necessary and she should send it as soon as she has it, and go back to payroll and say she doesn’t have the obit yet but you’ll get it as soon as possible. This back and forth between payroll and Jane with you as the messenger just frustrates everyone and leaves you looking incompetent or stubborn (to payroll) and heartless (to Jane).

    1. Lady Kelvin*

      She did tell Jane before she took her leave that they would need an obituary. And then told her again that the letter from the funeral home wasn’t enough. Although I do have questions about that note, if in fact, her father didn’t die until Saturday, then the note saying she was at the funeral home Friday would be fraudulent because she would not have been there until at least Saturday (and realistically not even then). It takes several days to go from dead to funeral home. When my grandfather died on a Saturday we had the viewing on a Mon/Tues and the funeral on Wednesday. So unfortunately to me, the fact that her father died on Saturday but she has a note saying she was at the funeral home Friday, Monday and Tuesday makes me think she is probably lying about other things around this event as well.

      1. Chriama*

        Doubt she’d go to the trouble of faking a note from the funeral home. And dad’s been sick a long time and was expected to die on Friday. It’s not that surprising that they might be talking to the funeral home on Friday. I don’t disagree that it sounds like Jane might not be a model employee, but this is not the hill to die on.

      2. Doriana Gray*

        Or she was at the funeral home Friday because she knew he was going to go, but just not when.

      3. Navy Vet*

        When my grandfather passed away hospice told me he didn’t have much time, and it was time to call funeral homes. (My grandparents did not have one set up)

        She even gave me a phrase to use which I hope to not need anytime soon. (Or ever) “My grandfather is actively dying”. Yep, I will never forget those words.

        So, my grandmother sat with my grandfather, while my mother, aunt, and I went to the funeral home to meet with them and get the ball rolling. It is 100% believable that she went to the funeral home for some time on Friday to discuss plans, sign a contract, give them a heads up about what’s going on, or any number of reasons someone would be at the funeral home before their loved one died.
        We had a obit, but it was super expensive…each paper charged a different amount too. I believe 1 of them was $200, another was $400…etc….The point is, when you are already paying for a funeral and do not know if any of the insurance policies are good and there are things during a funeral that you have to pay for. Where we live we had to pay $1000 for a cement liner to be placed in the grave. It’s a state law. Then even if you get the cheapest casket it’s still super expensive. You also get charged for the body getting picked up from wherever they are…the list goes on and on….
        It’s hard enough to lose an immediate family member, and yes there are rules for what paper work is required by your employer.
        But, let’s step away from accusing this individual of faking her step-father’s death. It will gain you exactly zero good will from your other employees. Even if you believe her it’s clear your boss does not, and people who blow up randomly tend to not keep their feelings a secret, I’m sure he is making his opinion known.
        Make sure you treat Jane as you would any other employee who just lost their father. If it comes out she lied about it, deal with it then. You come out looking much better, and I’m sure feeling less icky, if you treat her with compassion.
        On a side note, I wonder if payroll is being so by the book on this item because OPs boss put a bug in their ear. Jane is clearly BEC to at least OP boss.

        Public service announcement: No matter what your health make sure your life insurance information is easily located. Because, let me tell you, the last thing you want to deal with after a death is trying to find that.

  52. Student*

    This sounds very much like a “bitch eating crackers” situation to me. Tell your director that his dislike for this employee is clouding his judgement and causing him to act in ways that are irrational, unkind, and likely to undermine him and you with other employees.

    If she’s firing-worthy, build up a case to fire her. Don’t go out of your way to make her life at work hellish. Be a manager, not a comic-book villain.

    1. Florida*

      “Be a manager, not a comic-book villain.”

      Wow. That seems a little harsh. I think the OP is doing the best job she can to be a good manager given the policies that she has to work under.

      1. Mookie*

        I don’t think LW is behaving like a villain, but she is behaving like an overly-obedient yes-person and is not applying normal, human discretion (like text-messaging Jane when the funeral is scheduled). The language of the letter strikes me as overly fearful of her own position and deferent to a slightly mercurial director, more interested in saving face and following the rules than in delicately navigating an awkward situation (which is what managers are for, most of the time) while going to bat for her employees. The company sounds dysfunctional, and that’s part of the problem, I think.

      2. KT*

        She texted a woman she knew was attending her father’s funeral to ask for proof of said funeral. That’s some Devil Wears Prada, Meryl Streep at her peak boss b*tch level-villainy.

        What did she expect, the woman to take a selfie in front of the coffin?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think that’s fair. I absolutely agree the OP should not have texted the employee on the day of the funeral, but the letter is clear that the text was a reminder that Payroll had asked for the obituary by the next day.

          1. KT*

            I get that she considered it a reminder, but what on earth did she expect Jane to do from her dad’s funeral? “Please bring in an obit tomorrow” is unnecessary and can wait.

            It’s really thoughtless. I can buy into the OP being a bit clueless because of pressure from management/HR, but from the letter it also sounds like she strongly dislikes Jane anyway and that bled over into her behavior.

              1. Navy Vet*

                True story….When my grandfather died my cousin’s daughter had a “friend” in her class tell her she should take a selfie with the coffin to prove her great-grandfather really did die. Ah, teenagers. People really do request that, it’s super disturbing.

  53. Temperance*

    Jane is clearly lying to you about … something. I don’t know why she wouldn’t just use her PTO for her Friday absence and the bereavement for the rest, but she’s bending over backwards to enforce the lie (getting the admin from the funeral home to write her a note … what?), which, since she’s already shown herself to lack integrity, is a big deal.

    I think you need to put Jane in touch with Payroll/HR and stop acting as their go-between. Let her deal wtih the consequences of being sneaky and taking advantage of your good nature.

    1. BRR*

      Speaking for me, and I think many others share the same view, I would want to use bereavement leave before my PTO and I have a very generous PTO policy. It’s a gesture of valuing your employees to give them time off for their loss.

      I’m not sure what the lie is? I think in this situation, a letter from the funeral home should really suffice. Requiring a narrow set of documents for bereavement leave isn’t practical because not everybody does things the same way and it’s really invasive.

    2. One of the Sarahs*

      I feel like trying to punish Jane because she was told her stepfather would die on Friday and he held on until Saturday is really, REALLY bad management.

      1. Temperance*

        It’s not “punishing” her because he did not die immediately. It’s for the deliberate misrepresentation in order to avoid using PTO for spending time with him. That’s the crux of the issue here.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, but you don’t know for sure she did that. None of us do. Even if she’s the world’s worst employee the rest of the time, that doesn’t automatically mean she’s lying about her stepdad.

          1. Temperance*

            Upon reading the other comments, I can see how I interpreted the wording in the letter (more specifically, “let it slip”, to show that Jane was hiding something differently than other people.

        2. KT*

          How are you sure it was deliberate?

          She texted her boss and said hospice thinks he’ll die Friday.

          When she came in, she said he died over the weekend. That’s not a lie or deliberate misrepresentation, that’s people don’t die on schedule.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yup, it’s a bit like birth in that way–biology doesn’t always happen on schedule.

  54. Ruthie*

    I would have been very offended if I was asked to produce my grandmother’s obituary when I took bereavement leave to be at her funeral. But my office offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to time off, and I recognize that I am lucky.

    I don’t think it’s a problem if an employee uses up PTO as soon as it is accrued, it’s theirs to use after all. I had a report do that like clockwork, but what did become an issue as that she would always need it immediately for this emergency or that. She was unreliable. She certainly used up all of my goodwill and then some, as it sounds like your report has.

    Ultimately, we had the difficult conversation where we discussed what her transition would look like, and she found a position that she is very excited about with some job search resources I provided her. I didn’t make it about her attendance issues at all, since she could have justified and made excuses for every single absence. It had to be about her performance, which is why I think it’s great advice to let this one go.

    1. Chriama*

      Since it sounds like OP is struggling with this, can you go into more detail about how you made it about her performance rather than always taking PTO? Rather than making it about a series of individual, justifiable incidents I think OP needs some advice on how to manage Jane from a big picture perspective.

  55. Edward Rooney*

    Is your employee’s name Sloane Peterson? If so, I would check to see if anyone has hacked into your computer system to see if their vacation days have changed recently. If not, you need to push back on the proof of relationship and just take Alison’s advice on watching for any future slip ups.

    1. nani1978*

      clever reference! “A family member died, and you insult me? What the h3ll is the matter with you, anyway?”

  56. SAM*

    Obituaries/programs are not always possible to obtain. I had a close relative die and in accordance to her final wishes, there wasn’t a service, a posting in the paper or any notice what so ever. She just requested a prompt cremation and disposal (yeah I know). So when I took a day off to process all of that, my job thought I was lying since I could provide “proof”.

  57. LakeFisher*

    I’m not sure why you felt the need to call Jane while she was still out on bereavement – even if you were OK with not having an answer.

    I’d try to stop having the personal feelings that she is “cheating you” or “pulling a fast one on you”. That will not allow you to think clearly and act in this situation. You mentioned that your director personally dislikes Jane, so don’t let this person impact how you handle this. Honestly I found your director’s response to be really unprofessional – instead of giving you advice on how to handle this he went on a personal rant about why Jane sucks … after her stepfather died … ick.

    Here is what I would do in your shoes:
    One – try and understand Jane’s defensiveness here. She’s provided everything that was required of her, while getting hounded about it at her dad’s funeral, yet she is still being told “prove it, prove it, PROVE IT!”

    Two – clarify exactly what Payroll needs before going back to Jane. What constitutes proof that Jane is StepDad’s step daughter? Do you need a birth certificate proving Jane is her Mom’s child and then a marriage certificate proving Jane’s bio mom married StepDad because … last names don’t match?

    Three – once this is clarified, determine if it is feasible or if you should push back. If payroll is really asking for a birth certificate and marriage certificate that seems like something you should push back on. Otherwise if it is reasonable, layout what Jane needs so she can get this done.

    1. skillset*

      I agree with the posters who say OP should request specific information from payroll. What exactly does payroll want? Certified certificates proving every relationship? An obituary that may not exist due to family choice? What does payroll want when there are restrictions in many states on who can have a copy of certain vital records and she does not qualfy to receive one?

      As an active genealogist at my job, I can tell employers that these days they are going to have to be more flexible regarding proof of death or family illness. Many families choose to no longer publish, either online or in papers, obituaries or death notices due to the high cost and/or privacy reasons. Families are scattered, remarried, grandparents or non-familial adults standing in as parents, foster parents, birthparents, the list goes on. What if the employee does not have access to certificate proof? If they are even permitted to have a copy legally, sometimes it can take weeks.

      Times are different. Employers can no longer assume that staff will be able to provide whatever random sort of “proof” they require.

      As for bereavement leave, heaven help the person at my workplace whose immediate family member dies late in a week or has to make arrangements over a spread out time. The 3 bereavement days have to be consecutive work days -unless you are a manager and get comp time; the little people are out of luck if their parents happen to die on a Thursday.

      1. Chinook*

        “The 3 bereavement days have to be consecutive work days -unless you are a manager and get comp time; the little people are out of luck if their parents happen to die on a Thursday.”

        3 consecutive days after the death? I see that adversely affecting certain religious groups and/or those originally from colder regions. As a Catholic, I have never seen a funeral take place within 3 days – 5 is the quickest. There just isn’t a rush and ducks need to be put in a row in order to have the ceremony. And if you happen to die right before Easter, there are 3 days that it just isn’t allowed (I think Sundays are just discouraged). I for the actual burial, around here it is not uncommon to wait for the spring thaw otherwise you need to heat the ground before digging. My grandmother’s ashes were buried 8 months after her death because she didn’t want us to waste all that money. Luckily, in that type of case, you can atleast control the date for a weekend.

        1. skillset*

          3 consecutive days, regardless of purpose. So say the person passed away on a Thursday, one has to work with making arrangements on a Friday. If the funeral is to be during the next week, for instance, you can’t take the other 2 bereavement days. You have to take vacation days. Not every funeral can be planned for a weekend or in the evening, at least in this rural area.

    2. The IT Manager*

      She has NOT provided everything that was asked if her. She did not provide an obituary (which is what is required by Payroll) and the alternate letter she provided lacked necessary dates which apparently payroll needs.

      1. LakeFisher*

        A death certificate is a lot more official than an obituary, which may never be published for various reasons.

        “Now Jane has sent me a link to the county’s vital records sites that shows a death certificate (with date of passing) is being processed under the name that she has provided. I forwarded this down to payroll, but they have stated that this still doesn’t prove her relationship to the deceased — especially since neither she nor her mother share the same last name as the deceased. (I can think of multiple reasons for this in the modern age but none that help here). Payroll is willing to wait until Monday for an obituary. “

      2. LakeFisher*

        Also not all Obits will list survived by step children. Heck. My brothers biological father died … and the deceased new wife decided to leave all of my brothers children out of the obit. This was their bio grandfather and they still were not in the Obit even though some weird step sister’s boyfriend was listed.

        Also when I hear “Obit” is required I think “proof of death”. It needs to be an Obit that proves I’m related (I guess by having the same last name?) than it should be really clear. From the letter I am not sure the company has been clear on their policy at all. The OP also seems to think it’s a really standard, fair, clear-cut policy as well … which this community has demonstrated it’s not at all.

  58. Liz L*

    Agree with those who said OP needs to stop being the messenger between Jane and payroll. Monitor the situation but let them speak directly to each other.

    And if there was ever a time to bring up the terrible obituary-as-proof issue with whoever has power to change it, now would be it. (Reason that payroll is strict about these things is because they are not the ones with the power to waive such things at will. They answer to someone who might come down for not following protocol.

    And also totally agree that the trust issues need to be separated from this bereavement period. Once some time has passed, and if absenteeism becomes an issue again, I think the OP should sit down with Jane to address that without tying in what appears to be a true period of mourning.

  59. sally*

    “We accrue PTO time by number of hours worked, and it seems like whenever she has 8 hours saved up, she uses them right away even though i warn her against it.”

    Why is this a problem?

    1. Jessie*

      There are plenty of reasonable explanations. Jane has something going on that she needs the PTO hours to take care of, but is able to wait until she accrues enough PTO. For example, Jane’s dealing with a medical concern and goes to see a doctor in another city. She schedules her appointments for when she has enough PTO. Jane had multiple things to take care of for her family since her stepfather was in the hospital and took care of those things once she had the hours available.

      1. sally*

        Yes, sorry, that’s the point I was trying to make (that it’s totally fine for Jane to do this, and I’m not sure why the LW is warning her against it).

        I tend to do the same thing, because I prefer to take several smaller breaks throughout the year rather than a full week off at a time. So once I have 16-24 hours saved up, I schedule my next 4-day weekend or whatever.

    2. Mando Diao*

      If you wait until you have exactly 8 hours accrued and then take a day of ASAP, regardless of what’s going on in the office, that’s a problem.

    3. Temperance*

      Because when she needs a sick day, or has an emergency (like this one), she doesn’t have the time to take it.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This right here.

        I had an employee that did this, and they constantly racked up accrued leave-without-pay, which we frown on absent exceptional circumstances, to deal with sick days and personal issues. (They ultimately took two weeks off (without communicating plans to do so to anyone AND not responding to calls from the office to the point the police were called out to do a welfare check) and ended up terminated for job abandonment.)

        1. Temperance*

          That’s absolutely bonkers. I try to save up 3 or 4 days as a cushion, and it honestly saved me when I had a medical emergency that required disability and extended leave. (Our policy for disability is that the first week is PTO or unpaid.)

  60. Brandy in TN*

    When my grandmother passed, my aunts companies got the funeral homes names from them, thru a quick call to them, and sent flowers and I got flowers sent to my home from my company to carry if I wanted to, since they didnt want to bother me during that time. Also several employers showed up at the funeral, its a standard thing to do for some. I personally dont want coworkers around when Im upset but some people like this. If the company had sent flowers that could have verified the funeral.

    And also, contacting the funeral home and not being happy with what they sent you, do you think they have a standard form for this?

    1. heatherskib*

      Having worked for one of the largest corporate funeral home companies in the world… there’s not really a form for that. Haveing said that- I’ve created multiple notes documenting attendance for the various services ( wakes, visitations, memorials, burials, etc)

  61. Noah*

    This employee seem pretty terrible, but the company’s policies are appalling. You have to prove your relationship to the deceased? So, if it’s your parent with a different last name, I guess a birth certificate would do. Although, maybe the Jane Smith on your birth certificate is a different Jane Smith. We demand DNA tests for bereavement leave!!! How you prove somebody is, say, your aunt who is married to your uncle but doesn’t share your last name, must be a huge challenge. It would involve multiple birth certificates and a marriage license and multiple DNA tests.

    Then there’s the fact that this policy pretty clearly discriminates against religions who bury their dead quickly. For example, in this case, the employee is only entitled to two days because the funeral was only two business days after stepdad died. That may be religiously based (e.g., Judaism requires prompt burial). As a result of complying with religious dictates, certain employees get fewer days off for a funeral. That seems likely illegal.

      1. Noah*

        Fair enough. I did not read what you put in that blue box in the middle of the screen earlier because as soon as my eyes saw the box, my brain registered “advertisement” and skipped right over it. It looks way too much like ads on the google search results.

    1. fposte*

      As long as leave is granted according to what the user requests, probably not. Where you might run into a problem is when sufficient bereavement leave *isn’t* granted–there was a case a few years ago where an employee needed to travel to Africa to perform a religious rite at his father’s passing, and his company failed to provide leave time for him. The company won the initial case but the appeal reversed the decision.

  62. EmilyG*

    I think OP’s hands are tied here and they should just let Jane and payroll duke it out. There are problems, but the sensitive nature of a death and Jane’s prior performance problems make this not the situation to hash them out.

    Sure, Jane is a problem employee, but if this is the situation where you come down on her, other employees will take note, without necessarily knowing about her other performance problems. Sure, the bereavement-documentation policy is over the top, but trying to use your discretion to demand *less* documentation from a problem employee makes no sense.

    I would let this one slide and look for future opportunities to deal with the two problems.

  63. Faith*

    OP, in the future, please do not ever text your employees on the day of the funeral of their loved ones with any work-related matters. If you need any paperwork to document the reason for their absence, it can be requested an obtained after the funeral. The only communication a person should receive from his or her employer on such a day would be a sympathy card and/or a flower arrangement. Everything else can wait.

    1. Turtle Candle*

      That was the thing that stood out to me, too. The OP presumably can’t change the policy about how to count time off and requiring an obit. (Although I do think that it’s probably worthwhile to ask payroll/HR “so what do we do if a family chooses not to run an obit, as is becoming more and more common?” or “what do we do if the obit says “…and fifteen grandchildren” and we can’t verify the name from it?” because those are perfectly reasonable logistical questions. The OP presumably can’t change the policy, but there should be an answer to those questions, because the last two deaths in my family did not result in a published obituary, and it’s obvious that an alternative–a funeral home letter–is not acceptable at this point. The OP should be able to at least get an answer to ‘what if the family chose not to run an obituary?’, because a non-problem-employee might run into that issue too; I would have. And if the answer is ‘we don’t give bereavement leave if your family chooses not to publish an obit,’ then… well, that’s not great, but I’d at least rather know up front than be blindsided by it.)

      But texting about the paperwork on the day of the funeral strikes me as quite inappropriate; that by itself would fluster and upset me, even if I had an obit to provide and no problem providing it.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yes, I’m afraid if I got a text like that, I wouldn’t have a job afterward because if I were already upset, I might respond with something less than polite.

    2. KT*

      Yeah, that’s when I went from sympathetic to the OP to “OMG are you kidding me”.

      I don’t care how awful the person is, you don’t text them on the day of their loved one’s funeral. For any reason. At all.

      If someone did that to me, I would Facetime them or Pericope the funeral service live to “prove” it.

  64. Observer*

    I have not read every single post here, so I could be repeating here…

    If you have any leeway whatsoever, tell payroll to give her the bereavement time and have done with it. What she has provided indicates that she is almost certainly not lying about this – at least not in any significant manner. Let’s face it, if she was involved in the funeral proceedings, this wasn’t just some guy she knows. And pushing the matter is just nasty, especially since you started all of this in a ridiculously hasty manner. At this point, this does not look like legitimate fact checking, but an excuse to badger someone who you or your supervisor does not like.

    That’s not to say that you should not keep a sharp eye on her. If she’s prone to ethical lapses, that’s a huge issue and needs to be dealt with. But, it needs to be dealt with in a sensible manner. Badgering her over an obituary is NOT a sensible way to do it, and will only make anything else you do look like you are just “picking on her.”

    Also, you need to be very clear about how she is allowed to use accrued leave. If there is any reason or policy that should prevent her from using leave as soon as she accrues it, then tell her so and don’t allow her to do it. If there is no such policy or reasonable work reason for her not to take her time as it comes to her, then you need to stop “warning” her about it, stop looking down at her for it, and taking it out on her in on her by questioning her about everything else.

    Again, if you have reason to believe that she’s doing something shady, or not adhering to clearly communicated rules (or rules that should be obvious such as “don’t lie”), in the normal course of business, then ABSOLUTELY call her on it and take progressive action as needed. And, given what your organization seems to be like, document all of that. But stick to the real issues not “unwritten rules”, your boss’ dislike of her, or stupidity around her bereavement leave.

    1. Observer*

      Just to be clear. I get that the OP can’t actually change the policy, and I’m not suggesting that. I’m suggesting that she use all the discretion she has, despite the fact that the manager is also apparently a bit of an idiot. And if you don’t have any discretion, what others have said about getting an answer about what to do if the employee’s family either didn’t publish an obit, or the obit doesn’t have all the names, passing it on to Jane, and then letting her argue it out with HR / Payroll is probably your best bet.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I wholeheartedly agree with this. The amount of time that has been invested in this already is kind of ridiculous, and, if they’ve chosen NOT to fire Jane thus far for her less-than-trustworthy behavior, they’ve got to treat her like everyone else at this point. I mean, calling the funeral home to check up on her story? Really? Is HR treating everyone this way? Because it seems kind of stupid to treat an employee you may be interested in terminating in the near future differently than other employees. (And that’s how I’d address it with HR/payroll — is this worth the time we’ve spent on it and do you want to create an issue if we do choose to terminate?)

      I worked for an organization that had a tacky policy that required “proof” of a death, and it was so embarrassing to have to ask people who’d just lost a family member for an obituary or funeral program. It was not worth further upsetting the majority of good, honest, grieving employees to attempt to suss out the very few who may have been lying.

  65. Collarbone High*

    My first newspaper job involved writing obituaries based on info provided by funeral homes, and my experience was that funeral homes vary WIDELY in how on-the-ball they are and how much priority they placed on timely obituaries. Some places would send the form to the newspaper the day of a death; others would send them weeks later.

    If the service is private (or if the deceased was cremated and the family plans to hold a memorial at some future time), there’s no pressing need on the funeral home’s to get the obit up, since the community doesn’t need to know in order to attend the funeral.

    Also, the funeral home is depending on the family to write the obituary, or provide the information. If the family has drama over who should write it, or is too grief-stricken to do it, or has 50 other things going on that they consider more important, there’s not much the funeral home can do.

    tl;dr: There are dozens of legitimate reasons the obit wouldn’t be posted yet.

  66. Observer*

    For all of those people who think that it’s reasonable to use obituaries as THE way to document a death and the relationship of the person in question, I’d like to point a couple of things out.

    1. As others have noted, there are a LOT of people who don’t publish obituaries. This is more common in some communities than others, but it’s a real thing.

    2. Lots of obituaries do not list the names of all the surviving relatives. There are lots of reasons. In communities where large families are common, one of the reasons is simply space an attention. For example, when my husband’s grandmother passed away there were 7 children, ~35 grandchildren, and a bunch of great grandchildren (I don’t even know how many). This is far from rare in many segments of the Orthodox Jewish community. Had there been an obituary (there wasn’t), there is no way all of the grandchildren would have been listed.

        1. Temperance*

          Jane said that the obituary “wasn’t ready yet”. Not that they don’t do one as a family policy or somesuch.

          1. Observer*

            Which doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, and certainly even if it does, there is no guarantee that all the relations are going to be mentioned.

  67. Fuzzyfuzz*

    If you need to have proof (which I wouldn’t even concede!), a wide range of documents or other evidence–social media, vital records, whatever works–should be accepted.

    When my husband’s grandmother died and we had to fly across the country, a low level HR person at my company told me that the only acceptable piece of proof for bereavement leave was a ‘mass card’ or program from the ‘church funeral service’. This was after I presented a copy of the obituary with my very uncommon name listed as a survivor. I even printed her a copy of my plane ticket, which had me travelling to the memorial service location the day before the date that the obituary stated it was taking place and returning the day after. She told me that was not proof that I was actually attending.

    My husband’s grandmother was not religious (not even Christian) and her service was not structured in a way that it would have a program. I ended up having to kick it up the chain to her boss’s boss to have it approved. We live in a largely secular, diverse region of the country, so her assumptions and lack of understanding were a little startling.

    1. the gold digger*

      What? There were no programs for my husband’s parents’ funerals. They were rather unstructured, quite unclergy-ed events at the funeral home. There were pleas for someone to say something nice about them and then we ate.

      OK. That’s harsh. My husband, his two half brothers, and my nieces and nephew all spoke. However, for my FIL, every single person prefaced his/her comments with something like, “He could be – difficult.”

      I think my MIL used to be a lovely person, but years of anger and bitterness and being around an abusive husband made her mean.

    2. Observer*

      I can’t believe that your HR people were quite that stupid. It’s bad enough the low level person apparently checked her brain at the door, but that anyone with any level of management responsibility didn’t realize the problem is breathtaking. How do these folks not realize that they are making an official distinction based purely on religious affiliation?

      1. Chriama*

        Demanding proof of a church service would probably be religious discrimination though, wouldn’t it? Sounds like this hr person didn’t know what was what.

        1. Observer*

          Exactly my point. You simply cannot legally provide a benefit to a particular group based on religious affiliation, but that is exactly what demanding proof of attendance at a church service would be. Neither the low level, nor the second level person seems to have had a clue.

  68. Michelle*

    There is over 350 comments so I’m not sure if the OP will see this (or if someone else has already stated it).
    Specifically regarding the obituary, I do find it a bit weird that even an online obituary was/is unavailable. Most funeral homes are pretty quick to get those up. I would suggest going to Jane and saying something along the lines of how sympathetic you are to her situation and you understand this is difficult, but you are following the company policy and trying to make sure she gets paid for the days she was out. Then, as Allison suggested, watch her like a hawk. If she has been caught cheating and has issues with the director, I don’t think this will turn out well for her. But maybe a sit-down will wake her up and make her realize it’s time to improve her work record or risk her job.

    1. Elsajeni*

      For sure, I think the more the OP can emphasize “I’m not pushing this issue because I don’t believe you; I’m pushing it because I want to make sure you get paid for that time and payroll has rigid requirements for that to happen,” the better. Even if it’s not exactly true and they kind of don’t believe her. (I would also not push much more, frankly — I would maybe do one more round of “Payroll folks, exactly what documentation do you need? Are you absolutely sure what she’s provided already will not suffice?” -> “Jane, I talked to payroll and here’s exactly what they need to make sure your bereavement leave goes through” and from then on it’s between Jane and payroll to sort this out.)

    2. KT*

      But obituaries are up to the family; they request whether or not one goes up. If someone prefers it not be posted, the funeral home doesn’t post it.

  69. TootsNYC*

    Just last night I helped a friend with his father’s obit for the funeral-home website. We listed all sorts of people (spouses-in-law, etc.), but the list was clearly done by the widow.

    It’s interesting to read this question today, because I don’t think we thought about the idea that this obit might be used by someone in the family to prove things to their employers! If I worked at a funeral home, I’d be focusing on that. I know the funeral-home guy for my grandma’s funeral was completely “plugged in” and gave me a letter about the funeral, etc.

    Another thought:
    I haven’t been in love with the idea of being mad at Jane because she takes her accrued vacation immediately. It’s hers, she earned it. Now, of course, that means that she doesn’t have a cushion for an event like this–so if she ends up with problems because she doesn’t have PTO to use for this day, that’ll be her consequence to bear (though I think it’s really mean to have her get in trouble for being there on Friday, when she thought her stepfather was going to die that day, and she wanted to be there for her mom).
    And if the consequence isn’t firing, then this is a great opportunity for the OP to sit down and say: “This is exactly why we don’t want employees to use up their time off the moment it accrues; it’s why we want you to have a cushion of a day or two. You’re going to have to bear this consequence, and we need you–as you talk about this with colleagues, as you inevitably will–to make it clear that the core of this problem is that you keep zeroing out your PTO without leaving yourself a cushion to tap into in times like this.”

  70. AtomicCowgirl*

    Bereavement policy aside, three things stood out here for me. First, the action of the OP in sending a text to Jane while Jane is still on leave and on the day of her stepfather’s funeral really rung a sour note for me. My father passed away very recently and I can’t tell you how offended this kind of contact would have made me. OP already knew when Jane was planning to return to work and OP showed very poor manners in not waiting until Jane returned to work to approach her about information HR needed. The only reason I would have expected my work to contact me while I was on bereavement leave was if there were some outrageous emergency that absolutely could not wait. Secondly, I think OP comes across as a little harsh in not understanding why Jane was upset about needed to use PTO time for the days prior to her stepfather’s passing. She need only gently remind Jane that this is company policy in regards to leave, and leave it at that. Her opinion about what Jane should or shouldn’t feel grateful for is irrelevant; Jane just lost a beloved family member, she is still grieving, and as a manager I’d give my employees a *lot* of leeway for not responding well to being micromanaged about the time off and the company’s requirement for excessive documentation. Finally, the OP seems to me to be far too entrenched between Jane and HR. She should have cut this off at the pass early on and put Jane directly into contact with an HR representative — she might offer to be present if Jane needed to have a meeting with HR about the requirements, but in my experience HR is much better at explaining company policy without over-explaining and at doing so with professionalism and grace. I think OP would have positioned herself better had she a) let Jane alone until she returned to work as expected, b) left her director out of it, and c) the first time payroll/HR had an issue with the documentation provided, gotten Jane directly in touch with HR and let them handle it, while of course offering assistance as needed.

  71. auntie_cipation*

    I had no idea that funeral homes even did obituaries. When my father died several years ago in late September, we had a funeral (really just a burial with people gathered to share stories — is that different?) a few days into October. I finally got around to putting an obituary into the newspaper in November. Now, I wouldn’t wait that long again, as I heard later from some of his out-of-town friends who would have liked to have come to the funeral if they had known, but I didn’t know it would be a big deal at the time, and since I was overwhelmed with other stuff as the only living child as well as less than a month out from my own major surgery at the time of the funeral, not to mention living 8 hours away, I decided to let it slide. When the time comes for my mom I now know better than to consider the obituary to be trivial. But still. Also a friend of mine who died last winter apparently had asked her family for no obituary, so none ever appeared. Her friends made up a flyer and posted it on the town bulletin board; otherwise many might not have even known.

    I agree with the advice to let this one “extra” day go, if possible, but to deal with the other issues when the next situation arises. I also think the policy to need documentation to prove relationship goes too far — especially since it’s not even really standard for people to have the same last name as their family members anymore.

  72. Chriama*

    So re-reading the letter and the comments again, a couple things stand out to me:

    1) Jane knew the leave policy ahead of time. Maybe it wasn’t written well and didn’t emphasise what *information* (name of the person and proof of your relationship to them) was needed rather what documentation (obituary). Or maybe she doesn’t think it’s a rigid policy. But either way, she knows that the policy says certain information is needed and knew this before she put in for bereavement time.

    2) Payroll is being super rigid here. The note from the funeral home says she was at the home *discussing funeral arrangements*. How many people do that for someone who’s not immediate family? I think a lot of people have spoken on how the entire policy is kind of crappy, but payroll’s insistence on a specific piece of documentation – one that isn’t even standardized or officiated in any – to prove something that other pieces of documentation could easily prove seems… not very smart to me. The fact that the funeral home acknowledges that she spent time discussing his funeral arrangements should be enough to prove that she at least spent the bereavement time doing the typical activities that people use that time for, and that he was a close relative. Overall, if they’re worried about people abusing the policy and want proof, I feel like it’s easier for someone to lie by providing a link to a random obituary that says “survived by 5 kids” and gives only first names or no names at all. That’s a much easier con than providing proof that they spent multiple days discussing actual funeral arrangements at an actual funeral home. It just seems like payroll is caught up on semantics here.

  73. IT_Guy*

    OP: It sounds like your company is somewhat largish and the bereavement policy is pretty much cast in stone and is most likely listed in your companies employee handbook. What I would do for any of my direct reports is say simply: “Here is the company policy, why don’t you go down to HR and negotiate with them on what your reasoning is and why you can’t comply with the policy”

    This would get you out of the loop and while somewhat cold it get’s the two principals in this conversation talking directly.

  74. Searching*

    Ok so leaving aside policy stuff- I honestly think that bringing up the “problem with the dates” – and to clarify it was ONE day in which the person who had a few hours to live surpassed expectations by somewhere from 12-24 hours, and that is not really lying but just kind of how life and death in hospice goes? People don’t always die on schedule, doctors aren’t always right, family is still distressed and there’s still arrangements she could have been making on Friday- to your director who has a grudge against Jane strikes me as a bad idea on the face of it. It sounds like of course that person is going to think the worst of Jane, whether it is warranted or not. And why was this an issue that you had to take up the chain to this biased director versus just dealing with HR or payroll? It sounds like you and your director should get out of it entirely. So maybe she has to use 1 day of unpaid leave or PTO. Let payroll handle that and stop judging a family situation.
    Listen, if she was playing you for a fool… its a pretty involved ruse with very little upside for her, especially the funeral home. Why would one do all that to play hooky? How does one prove they’re related to their stepfather anyway? And even if you’re partly right (it doesn’t sound like there’s any basis for that, though), this is still a pretty insensitive state of affairs on your part and your director. I’d rather have someone slip through the cracks than harangue and doubt a grieving employee.
    I actually tend to think she was being pretty responsible about coming to you for clarification on the policy when her relative was in hospice. She told you this was coming. And its possible that she jumped through hoops to arrange the funeral and travel purposefully to comply with what she thought were the requirements. I’d be a really taken aback too if I thought I’d been doing everything correctly and then was penalized and assumed to be lying. And emotional right after a funeral- even if I wasn’t close to the deceased, I’d be there for my mother. (And btw, any possibility that her previous depletion of her PTO had anything to do with ongoing family stuff? Judging people for PTO is really insensitive too.)

  75. Pipkin*

    OP if it were me I’d communicate with Jane in writing (so there’s no ‘interpretation’ of what was said) expressing your condolences and how you know it’s a very difficult time for her etc etc. and that whilst the bereavement policy may seem uncaring that isn’t the intention…and now payroll need x y z from her to process the leave she should be entitled to under the circumstances. Is there any way she can negotiate directly with payroll and remove you from the equation? I know you’re her Manager but in this situation you’re also the messenger and at risk of getting shot!

    These issues have a habit of growing legs and becoming very bad, very quickly with good and bad employees. Been there with a bad one and got the t-shirt. A family bereavement is not worth hijacking to prove how Jane is a liar/bad employee/has a loose relationship with the truth and so on. I don’t think that’s your intention but regardless this is an instance where she might be telling the truth and I’d take her at face value on it.

  76. anon former 911 dispatcher*

    In addition to listing the date of death, death certificates in many jurisdictions also list the surviving next of kin which, in this case, would be Jane’s mother providing the proof of relationship payroll is asking for.

    That being said, were I Jane, the scan of the death certificate would be provided via company-wide email and would read something like:

    “Attached please find my stepfather’s death certificate showing his date of death as [DATE] which you have been requesting since [DATE + 2]. Additionally, you can see that my mother’s name is listed as my stepfather’s next of kin. Hopefully this will serve as sufficient evidence of my relationship to my stepfather and entitlement to bereavement leave. I regret that I will not be able to provide any further documentation as I herby resign my position effective immediately.”

    As AOS Spock put it “live long and prosper, [expletive implied].”

  77. Not So NewReader*

    OP, I wish you could have had time to chime in here because I think it would have made a difference for you.

    Others have hit the main points. I just have an aside comment. There is something about your writing voice, an awkwardness perhaps disbelief. I am not sure. This is your employee, but you do not seem too upset about her transgressions AND you seem to be wanting to advocate for her to get paid for her bereavement time. HR seems to have an ax to grind and you seem kind of detached in an odd way. It seems like the company has to fire her and you can’t? You even wrote AAM. I don’t know. I feel like I am missing part of the story. Yes, a lot of speculation going on there.

    Your company sounds very strict. And that is what you need to be telling your employees. “The culture here is by-the-book strict.” You sound comfortable with that level of strictness but other people may find it suffocating. This is why you need to tell them up front so they have no surprises.
    It could be that your employee might lose pay. What will happen if she does not get paid? Yes, she will be upset, but what else do you think will happen?

    I almost want to ask you if you are happy at your job. But that is over the line, it has nothing to do with your immediate problem.

  78. Zillah*

    I’m not sure the OP is reading comments, but on the off-chance they are:

    OP, I think you need to step way, way back. You’re getting way too involved in this, and I think it’s leading you to conflate several different things without really thinking through the consequences.

    Your director is a toxic person when it comes to Jane. I have no idea whether he’s toxic in general, but there are clearly ongoing issues between them, and it seems like he will automatically think the worst of her and have an over-the-top reaction whenever the possibility of wrongdoing comes up. While you should be able to turn to your director when you need help, I’d suggest against doing that in the future when it comes to Jane if you can at all avoid it.

    You shouldn’t be feeling sheepish because you trusted your employee when she told you that her stepfather was dying. It’s possible that she was lying, I guess, but this is a long and elaborate con to play out, and jumping straight to suspicion would say nothing good about you. Seriously, stop beating yourself up over it.

    Concentrate on the performance stuff with Jane; leave this out of it. Not only is it hurtful to challenge Jane about proving her stepfather’s death, other employees are observing this, too. This isn’t just about Jane; you’re sending everyone a message about how you treat people in mourning. You want them to think of you as compassionate; getting drawn into nitpicky proof and whether her stepfather died on Saturday rather than Friday isn’t going to help you to that end.

  79. Purr purr purr*

    When my grandfather died, there wasn’t an obituary in the paper. I think in some places, it’s not the norm to put one in the paper or on the website of the funeral home. Fortunately my manager believed me outright when I said my grandfather had passed. If I’d returned to work and had to provide an obituary to prove it, I would have been flustered too but also angry that they were doubting my word.

    Given the previous employee issues and if I was OP, I would be asking for *any* proof of death, like a death certificate or copy of an invoice from the funeral home (if she is able to get a copy from the person who paid). And if it turns out the employee lied, I’d refer it to HR. I think OP has done as much as she is able and it’s time to bow out gracefully and let the employee and HR battle it out.

  80. SL #2*

    I haven’t read any of these comments yet… but as an employee CURRENTLY ON BEREAVEMENT LEAVE, I nearly had a heart attack reading the post title, because I thought this was my employer writing in about me!

    (Clearly it’s not.)

  81. KatieBear*

    I don’t have much to add but wanted to give a personal anecdote. Back when I was working retail, I had a store manager that was awful. Likely stealing from the store, treated the assistant managers horribly, the works. Just trust me. But when she got a call during our early Monday morning meeting that her FIL passed away suddenly, myself and the other assistant managers were there for her, full stop. I even raced home to put on wardrobe compliant clothes to open the store for her on my day off so she could immediately deal with the funeral arrangements and bereavement. All three of us did, and we didn’t even like this person. I’m happy to this day that we responded that way.

    So whatever the issues, please try to act with kindness. You’ll be happier, I’m willing to bet. The odds that she’s lying or pulling a fast one aren’t worth it, in the end. I’ve never regretted being kind to someone who didn’t deserve it, but still feel awful about times I should have acted by the Golden Rule.

  82. Kassy*

    I can vouch that the doctor’s-excuse format is common for funeral homes to use for documentation, or when the relative in question is too far removed to be listed in the obituary but still qualifies under their employer’s bereavement policy. Funeral homes write doctor’s-excuse format notes because employees are treated like children missing school. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

    Newspaper announcements of any sort get delayed for all kinds of reasons. My daughter’s birth announcement was delayed because she spent time in the NICU. The announcement wasn’t published until they were ready to release her two weeks later.

    Would HR accept a copy of Jane’s birth certificate linking her to her mother, and her mother’s marriage license linking her to her stepfather, if “official” documentation is what they’re after? Her call on whether she wants to submit that information, of course, and YMMV on whether that should be necessary, but at least they’re all certified documents. I had to do that recently when my grandfather died, as my husband’s place of employment behaves similarly. I had the obituary which listed my mother, my birth certificate linking my mother to me, and my marriage license linking me to my husband (and name change verification for good measure).

  83. Former Retail Manager*

    At Alison’s request, I’ll say nothing about the bereavement policy.

    As for the OP, I don’t think they should do anything. It sounds like all the pushback on this issue is coming from Payroll, so tell Payroll to handle it. As her manager, you will come across as an ass, even if you clearly tell her that you are only doing what Payroll is asking. Your relationship is too close to be questioning her about the death in the manner that Payroll wants.

    And, as others have said, there isn’t always an obituary in the paper or on the website, even in today’s digital world. It is still possible to die “under the radar.” In fact, some people want that. My own mother has specifically requested not to have an obituary printed when she someday passes.

    And I’d definitely keep an eye on her going forward, as Alison has suggested, and work to address the bigger picture issues once the bereavement issue blows over.

  84. NaoNao*

    I’m not sure if this has been pointed out, but even bad employees can still be caught up in legitimate difficulties like a step dad dying and confusion around the obit, and so on. Her previous bad behavior may or may not be related, it could just be an unfortunate coincidence that this happened to her. I guess the OP can ask herself “If this was a more generally trustworthy employee, would I be going to this length to get information in this way?” If not, maybe let this drop for now, focus on the performance and attendance issues (as Allison suggested) and just chalk this up to life experience.

  85. Mrs. Tiggywinkle*

    I just wanted to add my two cents here.
    My husband has been on tenuous terms with his family for some time now. When his father, and then his brother, passed away, my slightly kooky mother-in-law 1) did not inform him; 2) did not place obituaries in any newspaper; 3) had the bodies cremated without letting my husband know; 4) did not hold services of any kind.

    So it is entirely possible, depending on the individual circumstances, that there just is no obit or service.

  86. Stacy M*

    I hate how companies handle bereavement leave. When I was new at my current job, my finace’s father died. He was like a second father to me. Because he was not family, I did not get bereavement leave, I was new and couldn’t take personal days, so my boss let me have one day (the day he died as he died at like 5 am with me at the hospital) and I had to flex my hours.

    Shortly after, his sister killed herself and I found her. It was very traumatizing. I was a mess for a week (no one gave condolences) until my boss asked me how I was doing and I told him how horribly I was doing. I got to take a week unpaid which would have been better immediately after she died, not two weeks later.

    I’m still bitter towards the company. Especially when other people got to take unpaid time off for vacations after this when they were new, but I wasn’t offered it until it was clear I was falling apart.

  87. Amanda*

    Late to the party but my grandmother died earlier this year, the week after I took PTO after Christmas. So I took three days off and had turn right around and take two more days. Some might say sketchy coincidence, but the reason I took those three days prior is we knew Grandma’s time was limited so I wanted to take the opportunity to spend time with her. Jane’s absences may have had to do with her stepdad’s declining health and wanting to spend time with him.

    And although Grandma died in a pretty ideal way (in her sleep at the age of 93), I would still have not been a productive employee in the two days after. I can’t imagine how tough it might be for those who lost loved ones in far more distressing circumstances.

    In another twist, a day after I returned to work, I had a scan for some concerning symptoms and was diagnosed with brain tumors that required surgery and along absence from work (I’m doing much better now). Thank god my employers are great and never questioned my string of bad luck and sent me flowers and cards and kept in touch with my family during surgery. It’s something I won’t forget.

  88. WildLandLover*

    I don’t know why the business is requesting an obituary. That seems odd. Not everyone posts an obituary. My family doesn’t post obituaries . . . at all . . . so I couldn’t provide one even if I wanted to.

  89. Tboo*

    My husband and I are thousands of miles away from home for his work. They have a policy of making us list family before we leave the country (with rules, so for example, my dads partner can’t be on the list because she has never been a mother figure to me). If one of those people dies or is sick they call the hospital (while we high tail it to the airport) and confirm death or ask a question along the lines of ‘X child of Y is overseas with Group Z, do we need to make arrangements to get them home now?’ They then use this as confirmation and book tickets home and sort associated leave.

    It sounds awkward but in practice it works very well and we know people who’ve been home to say goodbye despite a pretty hideous journey time.

  90. Marissa L*

    I did not have the funeral home post an obituary when my husband died. The letter from the funeral home should be enough followed by the death certificate.

  91. Ceegee*

    You AND your company should have believed no matter what. I would like to believe that when it comes to a death, grieving, arrangements and so on…YOU went through it and you said you were not lying……things happen….so why judge this person whether it be company time or not. You have not a clue how close the involved were so you go by the book even through how YOU felt when in the same position. ABSOLUTELY no sympathy here for you and your loved one. I have a high job title along with what I make BUT….those who work beside me, with me, and for me….well they come first in my eyes. I believe them when it is hard as I have doubts but to want proof? That hurts!!! No matter what the job pays, my friends and if it were not for them, I would not be were I am today!!!!!!

  92. Sue*

    Everything should be outlined in the company policy as to what you are entitled to and as to what is required of you ie company reserves the right to require an employee to provide evidence. Employment Standards Act allows 10 days of unpaid emergency per year (not per event, per year) You can also ask the employer to use this time off as vacation. The show must go on so, unless you have prior arrangements with your employer, if after 10 days you dont show up for work they have every right to fire you for neglect of duty with no severance.

    1. Rachael*

      That’s not common in all states. In fact NY doesn’t even require a company to give breavement nor vacation time.

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