did my employee give me a fake doctor’s note, reducing bias in hiring, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Should I try to verify a doctor’s note if it looks fake?

I’m a manager in a service industry establishment where daily attendance is very important because of the nature of the job. Obviously people get sick or have legitimate reasons that prevent them from coming to work – I expect this! However, I am currently dealing with an employee who is beginning to have a serious pattern of poor attendance. I don’t want to be a one-size-fits-all type manager, so I do take into consideration people’s circumstances when it comes to disciplining or firing due to attendance. Our attendance policy is a three-strikes-in-30-days policy, in which you get a written warning after three instances and then escalating disciplinary warnings for subsequent infractions. I actually find the policy quite lenient for most responsible people – most people are not getting sick three times in one month, and each illness counts as one instance – if you are sick with the flu for three days, that counts as one strike. I do not require a doctor’s note or any other type of proof, but if you provide me with one, I will take that into consideration to delay a written warning if it seems like circumstances were really outside of your control.

All that being said … this employee’s most recent attendance infraction was going to result in yet another written warning, quite possibly the last one before termination. So I suggested that she provide a doctor’s note, since she had informed me that she went to urgent care the day before. Well, the doctor’s note looks … exceptionally fake. Since this is already an employee with poor attendance, do I have an obligation here to try to verify the doctor’s note? Obviously if it is fake, that is a fireable offense for the deliberate dishonesty. I really try to treat people like trustworthy adults (when it seems like the industry standard is to treat people like children and “write them up” for the slightest infraction). I don’t want to be the type of manager who’s going to assume your doctor’s note is fake! But … it really is most likely fake. And if I were to go about trying to verify a doctor’s note, how do you even do that?

Employers are legally allowed to verify doctor’s notes by asking the doctor to confirm the note’s authenticity. The doctor shouldn’t disclose the employee’s medical information, but they can confirm they issued the note or tell you if they didn’t. If it looks exceptionally fake, I’d call and find out, because forging documentation is a big deal (much bigger than simply faking sick).

For what it’s worth, that three-strikes-in-30-days policy is a bad one. It’s true that people don’t usually have three separate instances of sickness in one month, but sometimes they do — think flu, sprained ankle, and a sick kid. It’s not going to happen a lot but it will happen sometimes, especially for people with kids or other dependent family members. I understand that the policy is better than most in your field, but just so you don’t let your norms get all messed up, please know that is still a bad policy, and it’s treating employees like they can’t be trusted, and it’s treating managers like they can’t manage or exercise any discretion. It also incentivizes employees to come in when they’re sick, thereby infecting other people. It might be a good policy for your industry, but it’s bad in general.

2. How can I be sure I’m not biased toward my top candidate?

I am currently hiring for a role on my team — a business analyst who will work with our internal customers. They need to be qualitatively-inclined, great with large datasets, and comfortable with specific programs, but also extremely effective communicators and influencers. So far I have interviewed seven people: two external and five internal candidates. Of these candidates, two are of the same gender and race as me. The other five are either a different gender, different race, or both.

I was able to rule out two people quickly as they don’t have the experience/skills I’m looking for. Then there is the middle group: four people who seem perfectly competent and capable but didn’t “wow” me. Last, there was one candidate who stood out among the crowd and really did impress me, as they had a nuanced understanding of many of the intricacies of the job, and was really excellent in their communication skills during the interview.

So what’s the problem? This top candidate is one of the ones who is the same race and gender as me. I’m worried that I’m being unconsciously biased in selecting them because of this. I’ve been asking myself, what made them stand out above the others in the middle of the pack? Part of it is, I think, their personality. On the one hand, this is important for this role: as I mentioned, they will need to communicate and collaborate effectively with people across our organization, and a warm, friendly and pleasant personality is critical. On the other hand, how much weight is okay to give to someone’s “personality” being likeable? I’ve read some of your columns on watching out for people who remind you of yourself in hiring, and I’m worried that’s what I may be doing.

How can I parse this out? I want to hire the best person for the job, and I also want to be fair to all candidates.

Two things: you need to get as objective as possible about the criteria you’re evaluating all your candidates on — so not just “pleasant” or “good personality,” but what that really means for this specific job. Is it the ability to quickly establish rapport with new people? Is it leaving people feeling listened to and welcomed? Staying warm and professional and not becoming flustered or impatient? Saying no in a way that leaves people still feeling good about the interaction? Whatever it is in your context, spell it out as explicitly as possible because you can’t assess it clearly if you don’t define it clearly; “I just know it when I see it” is dangerous if you want to fight bias.

Second, however you define it, you presumably want to ensure they connect with others and quickly build trust across all demographic groups, not just with you. So you could have other people meet with your top two or three candidates and ask them to assess them on specific criteria too. (Of course, you need to do this in a way that doesn’t tokenize your colleagues. Ideally you’re working somewhere diverse enough that you can easily assemble a diverse panel without tokenizing anyone. If you’re not, this is trickier.)

3. Employer is dragging out the hiring process without answering my questions on salary

I am currently in a job application process that began seven months ago. Following the initial resume and cover letter, I have had (1) a half-hour introductory call with the internal recruiter, (2) a half-hour call with the hiring partner, (3) a one-hour in-person interview with two people from a different team, and (4) a second call with the hiring partner plus another partner in a different team. There have been roughly six weeks between each of these steps.

The whole process has been quite disorganized, and has so far given me precious few details about either the company or the role (mainly because all the interviewers apart from the recruiter are brand new to the firm).

During the last call, the hiring partner seemed keen to proceed, but suggested I have a fifth meeting, this time with a partner who just relocated to my nearest office (all my other interviewers have been based at the company HQ). This local partner also sits within an unrelated department, so again, is unlikely to be able to provide details about my potential role.

I had previously been told that the fourth meeting would be the final one. I see the value of meeting the leader of the local office, but I am reluctant to invest the time for this without more knowledge of the basics, such as salary. When the recruiter asked me for my availability for this fifth meeting. I replied that I would check my upcoming availability and come back, but that in advance of that, I did have some practical questions that we had not yet had a chance to discuss, such as salary, and I asked: “To make sure that we are on the same page ahead of this next meeting, are you please able to advise me of the salary range that is in mind for this position?”

The recruiter replied the next day, with: “Thank you, [Name].” That was it — no reference at all to my question about salary. That was a couple of weeks ago.

I think I know enough now to say that this isn’t the role or company for me. But I don’t have any other job offers, so it feels uncomfortable withdrawing. That said, it seems that if there was still a viable role, it wouldn’t be taking this long (I suspect the lack of urgency is down to the immediate need for support being supplied by other teams). I keep bouncing between the following options:

1. Emailing the recruiter to withdraw my application, “to pursue other roles that are more in line with my current goals.”
2. Emailing the recruiter as above, adding some reference to either my outstanding question around salary or the protracted recruitment process.
3. Pretending I’m still invested in the process and emailing a reminder about my outstanding question.

That’s way too many interviews and way too many months — especially when you don’t even know the salary. It could turn out to be wildly below anything you’d accept, so it doesn’t make sense to move forward without getting some answers now.

Since your alternative is simply withdrawing, you might as well bump the question for the recruiter: message them again and say, “Are you able to give me an idea of the salary range before we move forward? I’m reluctant to schedule another meeting without making sure we’re in the same ballpark.”

If they ignore you again, I’d hold firm on not investing more time in yet another interview until they’re willing to give you the basics. If that kills your chances, that’s a sign that there’s no great loss here. (If there even is a job here! Right now the opening doesn’t seem particularly concrete.)

can I set a limit on how many interviews I’ll do with a company?
I’m stuck in endless interviews with a company that can’t make up its mind

4. Haven’t been paid in months

My husband is a salaried employee at a business and has only received one paycheck since the middle of March. He has not received four regular paychecks. He did receive one regular paycheck on May 3. None of the other members of his team have been paid either, so this is not just an individual issue. Obviously this is illegal and should be reported to the state labor board where we live. However, my husband is afraid of retaliation since the industry is fairly small (which is also illegal, but they don’t seem to care much about that). His boss is dodging everyone who has pressed the issue, and upper management just keeps giving empty promises about how it will be deposited next week, but they’ve said this every week. He is frantically job hunting and has had multiple good interviews and requests for second interviews but it’s a slow process. Do you have any advice?

What specific kind of retaliation is he afraid of? “After they didn’t pay us for several months, we asked the state for help getting the money we were owed” isn’t really retaliation material since anyone who hears that is going to be on your husband’s side. And sure, they could badmouth him to others in the field — but if word gets out that they haven’t paid employees for months, criticism from them isn’t going to carry much weight. He can also neutralize a lot of it if he and other coworkers act as a group; that way, the employer can’t single out any one person.

He really should file a wage complaint with the labor board; this kind of thing is generally taken seriously, and he’ll get his overdue wages and in some states they’ll have to pay him additional penalties too. You could point out to him that it’s important to take action while they still have the ability to pay him. If he waits and the business never recovers, his chances of being able to recover that money go way down.

Read more:
how to get money an employer owes you

5. We won’t get severance if we don’t return to the office two days a week

I’ve been remote since the pandemic, and our parent company may soon require us to be hybrid (roughly two days a week in office). In one of the communications, they mentioned that those who failed to meet minimum in-office requirements each month might be subject to lose certain benefits, including severance. Can a company deny you severance based on an in-office attendance policy?

Yes. No law requires employers to offer severance, so they can attach conditions to it like that if they want. (One exception: The federal WARN Act requires most employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60 days notice if they’re laying off 50 or more people at once or pay the equivalent amount of time in severance.) In theory, they could also offer different classes of benefits to different classes of workers — so they could offer X vacation days to remote workers and X + 5 vacation days to hybrid workers, etc.

{ 493 comments… read them below }

  1. nnn*

    One situation where I can easily imagine three separate sick leaves in a month is if an employee is trying to be diligent and push through, or to avoid being seen as a slacker, or can’t afford to take more time off, so they go back to work before they’ve 100% recovered and then find they’ve misestimated and need to take time off again.

    (Example: they take Monday off sick, come back on Tuesday and Wednesday, then realize they’ve overdone it and need to take Thursday and Friday off)

    I’m not sure how that intersects with “if you are sick with the flu for three days, that counts as one strike” (is it only three days in a row or does this apply for Monday, Thursday and Friday with the same flu?) and I’m not sure how that intersects with general employee privacy surrounding sick leave.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      Also, if an employee has children, it’s not exactly rare for every person in the family to catch a disease one after the other. And while the children are sick, parents may alternate who stays home, so may come to work in-between.

      So, would child A sick, child B sick, self sick count as one instance, or three…?

      (I guess if such a policy were in place, I’d make sure to not come back to work in between and just continue calling in “still sick”).

      1. Roller*

        I’ve done the trying to push through thing before and had my manager sit me down to explain the policy – that by keep coming back in I was resetting the sick clock into separate instances, and that the policy is partly to stop people pushing through and potentially infecting their coworkers.

        The 3 times in one month sounds pretty reasonable to me, the above policy had a 5 illness instances in 1 year, then you had a sit down conversation with HR about accommodations/suitability to the role etc. It sounds similar to the OP’s approach, in my case I just assured them that the policy wasn’t one I had heard of and that I had handled it badly, and they seemed ok with that. I expect they would have been accepting of difficult family circumstance and exceptional health issues as well.

        If you have this policy in place, and I had to use the time to look after sick kids, I simply wouldn’t do the day by day trade off with my partner and would commit to the whole of the kid’s illness. It sounds like the OP is pretty understanding, but that this employee is getting ridiculous.

        From the other side of things I later had a manager who was regularly calling in sick on her most crucial work days. These were pretty obviously a combination of hangover and not wanting to do the hard bits of the job. As the one who had to pick up the slack on top of my other work I was pretty peeved. I’m not sure even she would have managed to break the 3 times in one month limit! Just to remind people this is potentially going to be obstructing coworkers who may need to come in to cover this person.

    2. Brain the Brian*

      It’s also important to understand that something like the flu often weakens the immune system and leaves a person more vulnerable to getting sick from other things shortly after recovering. I recall one particularly nasty season several years ago when I got the flu in late November (right before I would normally get my vaccine – sigh) and then had a horrible cold, a stomach bug, and something flulike again within a month. This three-strike policy is misinformed, even if it’s competitive for the industry.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        (That said, the issue for the LW is the potential forgery. That’s a huge, huge deal in any employee, and you absolutely cannot tolerate it. Period.)

      2. Cmdrshprd*

        But it seems that OP is fairly reasonable. they get that things can happen and are understanding of it and don’t try to just blindly apply the policy. In that an otherwise good/honest employee who happens to have a month of bad health luck will likely get some leeway.
        or an employee who can show a Dr.s note for one or two of the sickness. would likely be okay.

        I am a little unclear of OP is fully in charge and makes the policies or if OP just has to follow them.

        But it also seems it’s not even a 3 strikes you are fired, but. a3 strikes you get your first write up.

        I would suggest if there isn’t already a rolling fall off period of like 6 months to 12 months so that older infractions/warnings fall off.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Sounds like it resets every month. Our rolling instance system is 3 per six months, five per 12 and they fall off on a rolling basis. The instance is generous — you get only one per set of consecutive days off so it makes it easier to stay off to recover fully — but the needs of the employee need to be balanced with the needs of the employer.

          1. Star Trek Nutcase*

            I also think consideration needs given to the type of business and type of employee. For example, most restaurants in my city are staffed by young adults who don’t view the job as a career but simply a stop gap til graduation or degree-related job comes along. It’s relatively easy to move between such jobs, and references are in the nature of did they show & breathe. And because it’s service, “any” absence or lateness is even more impactful than for non- restaurants.

            IMO most people (by virtue of being mostly employees) tend to ignore or under estimate what is needed to sustain a business and focus on what should (in a more perfect world) be provided employees.

            1. Brain the Brian*

              Frankly, if a restaurant — which is regulated by the health code — cannot survive without a sick employee or two… I will eat elsewhere. Sorry to say it.

              1. Allonge*

                That’s fair – I guess most likely what you will see is there are not enough waiters around, not the specific reason (and then you will go to another restaurant).

              2. Bella Ridley*

                The restaurant industry is chockablock with people coming in sick. Servers and cooks alike. It’s the nature of the beast. Whether it’s right or wrong is another question, but it’s absurdly common.

                1. Brain the Brian*

                  You’re not wrong. I eat mostly at home, which suits me (and my wallet!) fine.

                2. Happy*

                  That’s awesome.

                  It’s ridiculous that restaurants expect people to handle food while sick, but unfortunately it’s the industry standard.

            2. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

              So, in countries where restaurant employees have the same strong labor protections as other workers, do those countries simply not have restaurants? Because it seems if they do, then maybe inhumane policies aren’t actually needed to sustain the business model.

            3. Prof*

              Yeah…work places counting sick days as “strikes” is horrific. It’s a sick day. You don’t punish people for being sick and using sick days. They’re not doing anything wrong. Wow. I don’t actually care what kind of staffing problem this causes, this is inexcusable and horrific

              1. Bella Ridley*

                Genuinely, to you and other commenters who are decrying this policy, have you never worked in a coverage-based industry? By which I mean the type of coverage-based job where if you don’t show up, things don’t happen–care isn’t delivered, doors aren’t unlocked, factory belts don’t move, etc.

                1. Pescadero*

                  Yes, I have worked in coverage based industries.

                  That is why I understand the way “coverage industries” generally deal with coverage is completely unethical and shouldn’t exist.

                  It’s not that I don’t understand it – it’s that I understand it and think it should be illegal under labor laws.

                2. kel*

                  Yes; and that’s why I’m against it.

                  I’m not saying you can’t address absences. Making ALL unplanned absences ‘strikes’ is messed up and sets a standard than any unplanned absence is bad.

                3. KG*

                  Coverage-based industries should be staffing to a level beyond “the bare minimum number of people required to get things done.” There should always be at least some level of redundancy on every shift. Sorry to the bosses that it might slightly infringe on profit margins.

                4. Brain the Brian*

                  This is true, and it’s also exploitative of their workers. There are Broadway shows, for instance (the literal peak of the theatre industry) that have so little coverage that an ensemble member will frequently perform *multiple tracks in a single show* (switching tracks between scenes – how the performers keep this straight is beyond me), and others where they just cut ensemble tracks completely if they feel like a random weekday audience with no critics in attendance won’t notice.

                  Why are Broadway producers’ profit margins so thin that they can’t hire adequate understudies and swings to avoid this? Because the average Broadway theatre charges $100,000 in rent. That’s nuts. It’s basically a scam to help jack up Times Square real estate prices so they can borrow cash against the value of their buildings. What a screwed-up system we have across so many industries (and sorry for rambling).

                5. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and on*

                  If LW1’s system is as described, it’s more generous than any I’ve ever had in my career in the tech industry! (mostly I’ve had small employers with 15-22 days of PTO, the closest I had was when I worked for a tech subsidiary of a traditional company that allowed 5 “instances” of sick time per fiscal year).

                6. Mel T*

                  I work in a coverage-based industry and it is handled by covering other people’s work or getting substitutes in who are paid on a per diem basis. There are no strikes for being absent.

          2. Cmdrshprd*

            “Sounds like it resets every month.”

            IDK if it is true, to me that would make the sick/call out policy meaningless.
            If you call out 3 times in January you get a writeup, then it resets you can call out 3 times in February and it resets etc…. It would mean someone would have to call out 4-6 times in one month to risk getting fired.

            I took it as you call out 3 times in a January you get a writeup, then you call out once in February you another write up, and you call out once in March you might get a final warning and/or fired.

            I do think that allowing for Dr.s notes to show it was legitimate and not someone just calling off to go to a concert gives some good leeway for good employees.

            1. OP #1*

              OP here – it’s actually a rolling 30 day policy. So let’s say you call out 3 times between April 1 and 30, that would be a warning of some kind. But if you call out on April 1 and April 15, and then not again until May 15, that would not result in any documentation, because the last 3 call outs were over a period of more than 30 days. I hope that makes sense.

              1. Cmdrshprd*

                Thank you OP, that makes sense.

                My follow up is how long would that writeup stay on file before it falls off?

                Lets say an employee has a bad 30 days they get sick/child/family gets sick and call off 3 times in the 30 days, and then have another legitimate issue a month or two later, laundry room floods etc… Does the write up fall off after 30 days from it being issued? Or does the write up stay for 6 months/year.

                In that if that employee after getting the write up, has good attendance for 30 days, and then gets sick/calls out twice in the third 30 day session would they get additional writeups?

                The rolling 30 day for sick/callout to me makes it seem much more generous, while it can certainly happen, I think it would alleviate the pressure of worrying about the write-up if you know the last call out is quickly falling off.

        2. Washi*

          Yeah this policy actually sounds fairly generous to me. Per my performance review template, I can only get a “meets expectations” for attendance if I have fewer than 5 unscheduled absences per YEAR.

          It sounds like OP only requested a doctor’s note in this case because there was a pattern happening and the employee has already stated she went to urgent care and thus likely could obtain some documentation, and that seems fairly reasonable to me. It’s not like OP asked her to go to the doctor just to get the note.

          1. PayRaven*

            I’d like to reiterate Alison’s comments here, as a weight against norms in your industry: 5 absences per year is ABSURDLY low for an adult, even a healthy, able-bodied one.

          2. Megan*

            “I can only get a “meets expectations” for attendance if I have fewer than 5 unscheduled absences per YEAR.” That policy is bogus. You should feel OK taking personal days, that is why they are there! I have three weeks vacation and 8 personal days. It is expected that I take it all.

            1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

              Apparently only the able-bodied and childless can exceed expectations at your employer.

            2. Overthinking it*

              I don’t think anyone said there WERE “personal days” or sick leave available in the LW situation. Often in retail, food service or other businesses with high turnover, there aren’t. You take the time unpaid.

            3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

              If a sick day counts as a “strike” what makes you think they have personal days?

              (I’ve never worked anywhere with more than 3 personal days, FWIW, and never been allowed to take more than 1 in a row. Unless your personal days are doubling as sick days that’s extremely generous.)

            4. doreen*

              Not that I’m defending ” I can only get a “meets expectations” for attendance if I have fewer than 5 unscheduled absences per YEAR.” but it is entirely possible to take all of your time off while still having fewer than five unscheduled absences – I did it most years. Now, some of it might be specific to my employer – if I asked today to take tomorrow off, that would not be unscheduled and wouldn’t count. If I was out for a week and provided medical documentation, that was only one instance. If I requested time off in advance for a medical appointment or to recover from a procedure , that was not unscheduled. My original employer did not keep track of unscheduled absences and then we merged with an agency that had a policy of reviewing * the situation after a certain number of unscheduled absences. The only real effect this policy had on anyone I knew was that they stopped calling in saying they would be out because their apartment was being painted , their kid had a parent teacher conference. Which was a significant part of the reason for having the policy to begin with – before the merger, the lack of a policy meant that managers tended not to do anything about people who took 20-30 days a year off unscheduled even when it negatively impacted coverage.

              * managers didn’t have to take any particular action but they were required to document their review. IOW , you had to review the records after say 8 unscheduled absences in 12 months but didn’t have to treat the person who normally had a good attendance record but hit a patch of personal and family illnesses the same as someone who had the same number of unscheduled absences because they didn’t bother to ask for time off in advance for apartment painting etc.

          3. Parakeet*

            I can understand genuine attendance problems (5 unscheduled absences in a year does not count as this IMO) leading to discussions about fit, potential accommodations, and so on. But it’s really bizarre to have attendance as a category in your performance review! Either you’re at work enough or you aren’t; why are you being graded on it like a child who also shouldn’t be graded on it?

      3. Bast*

        I wonder if this is the same year we all got horribly sick. October of 2021, kids had been out of school since the previous year due to Covid and had just gone back the month before. Half of our family ended up with a flu (fever, chills, etc), passed it around for a good week or so between us all, we were recovered for about a week, kids went back to school, and brought home a stomach flu which got passed around. We spent a good 3 out of 4 weeks that October taking turns passing around one disease or another. Miserable month.

      4. CommanderBanana*

        Seriously. I had a sinus infection that I caught because I volunteer in a shelter and every kid in the shelter was sick and that damn bug lasted for a month. A MONTH. It wasn’t stay-at-home bad for that long, but I was snotty and coughing up fluorescent green goo for a month.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Also like – I miss work for the same chronic condition, often. I try to stay within my allotted sick days and minimize the impact on my teams but a few times a year I’d probably exceed this policy. Do I need to file ADA paperwork just because the policy sucks?

      1. ferrina*

        It sounds like OP would consider this as all part of the same “incident” (so just 1 strike).

        Honestly, I sort of like this policy. It sounds like 3 infractions aren’t an automatic firing, but it sets groundwork if needed. It sounds like OP’s job requires high amounts of attendance in order for the business to run- I get that, I’ve worked at a couple places like that. Most places that are attendance-based are also running on thin profit margins, and if people aren’t there the business can’t make money. It sounds like OP wouldn’t get rid of a worker who is a net-positive for the business because of this policy, but they are also trying to protect the business from people who would regularly call out and end up costing the business money. I’ve definitely worked with people like that- they think that they can say the word “sick” and no one is allowed to ask questions, but then they burn their bridges by being difficult to work with, mediocre at best, and expecting everyone else to pick up the slack (of course, they never want to help cover if someone else is sick). I don’t know how many of these people had a chronic health condition, but they were definitely suffering from chronic entitlement. That is what this policy is trying to prevent, and it sounds like OP will happily work with someone who has a health condition and is a net positive for the business.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I do/have also worked in places where coverage is important and I totally get that! My concern is more from a policy writing and compliance POV. It’s very difficult to write a policy that is both firm enough not to exploit and within the bounds of reasonable accommodations, and I’m not sure this one hits that. Execution vs intention.

          I also work in a state where not walking that line correctly can get the employer in hot water.

        2. jasmine*

          > It sounds like OP would consider this as all part of the same “incident” (so just 1 strike).

          I mean, maybe, but personally I don’t want to disclose that I have a chronic condition at work and I’d resent having to do so.

          1. ferrina*

            Unfortunately, that’s not realistic. Our health impacts our performance. Usually accommodations can be made, and should be made! But there are times when accommodations can’t be made. Attendance-based jobs are tricky because obviously no human is going to be able to predict 100% what the future holds (and whether or not they’ll be well enough to work), but the business also needs to be able to predict with some degree of certainty what staffing they’ll need. And they need to be able to staff at a level that allows them to make a profit.
            Example- a massage parlor needs to be able to book clients and the clients need to have a reasonable degree of certainty that they’ll have a masseuse. As a client, I won’t mind if the massage parlor has to reschedule once, but if it happens more than 20% of the time, I will probably look for a different massage parlor that can keep its appointments. At the same time, the massage parlor can’t regularly schedule two staff when they only need one, just in case the first one calls out. If they schedule two staff and they only need one, then they are paying double in staffing costs, which eats into profits. If they send the extra person home early, that person will be annoyed- they cleared out their schedule for work, just to make less money than they thought.

            That’s without considering that not all people are good actors. I’ve worked with plenty of people that would happily find ways to not work but still get paid. They didn’t care if they shirked their work onto others. These are the people that make these types of policies necessary. And I would argue that a good policy is better than pure discretion- human discretion is way to susceptible to bias, and it’s better to clearly state your expectations. That way people know when they need to worry, what flexibility they have, and people that need the accommodations can have that conversation.

      2. History Nerd*

        That’s what I was thinking too. A coworker of mine has been out many times because she was having trouble managing a chronic illness. Under this policy, it sounds like she would have been fired for it. And I’ve recently heard of another person having multiple instances of illness in a short period of time only to finally find out she had cancer. Maybe LW could talk to the employee about the pattern and how to meet expectations, as Allison often suggests (if LW hasn’t already).

        1. GythaOgden*

          The question has gone beyond that — it’s about a forged sick note, not the actual instance system.

          For the record, my husband also had cancer and couldn’t work. His boss kept him on the payroll, but paid him a small token amount each period, not his full salary. He was still on their books when he died, but they had long since moved on in the assumption that he wouldn’t be coming back and weren’t therefore obliged to pay him his full salary.

      3. dePizan*

        As someone with multiple chronic conditions–does each condition get 3 strikes? Do they all count together? Do I have to get ADA paperwork for each condition?

        Also the “most responsible people” don’t get sick three times in one month is kind of an upsetting way to frame it given the number of people who are disabled/chronic conditions.
        But even besides that….some people just have crappy immune systems and try to be careful but still pick up everything. Or maybe are in contact with or work with kids/youth/homeless people where illnesses are constantly being passed around (for instance I have a social worker sister who works with at risk teenagers and my mom just retired from working at a high school. Both do absolutely everything they’re supposed to as far as preventions, yet both have still gotten COVID-19 four-five times now; and despite that nature of their jobs, their workplaces are not any more lenient on needing to call out sick or needing to quarantine); or sometimes one virus will go through a youth group multiple times before it finally burns out. Some people have the multiple chronic conditions and a flare-up of one can set the others off.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          I worked at a library where people would make one last stop from the doctor’s office to home in order to pick up enough books to supply their reading needs while they were ill (and er, have done that myself, bad me). The library staff caught *everything*.

    4. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

      True story – I once was off sick on Monday, went in on Tuesday, realised that I still wasn’t up to working, and went home after about 1/2 hour.

      That was counted as two separate spells of sickness, because I’d gone into the office (albeit for 1/2 hour). Our policy allows for 8 days or 4 spells of sickness before warnings start to kick in.

    5. M*

      And just to highlight that Alison’s example here is really not far from real life: two weeks ago I sprained my ankle badly, and last week my partner gave me a terrible sinus infection. I work primarily remotely so I didn’t miss much work, but if I worked in person I would be SOL! And I’d be incredibly stressed about anything that could happen in the next 20 or so days that would give me a third strike under that system.

      There’s also a part of me that saw “three strikes in 30 days” and thought that was very lenient – I worked somewhere where you got three strikes in one YEAR. And they would often schedule us to close at 9pm and then to open at 5am back to back – lots of people got fired from oversleeping that way. But Alison is 100% right OP – it may be lenient for the industry but it’s so much better to just let managers use their own discretion.

      1. SakuraFan*

        Back in the 80s, I was a programmer at a bank, so a nice white-collar job, you’d think they’d show some grace. Ha ha.

        One winter day I slipped and fell on some ice and by the time I got home the arm that I’d fallen on was not moveable without a lot of pain. The diagnosis was “soft tissue damage to the upper arm”, and the treatment: keep it in a sling for a couple of weeks and don’t try to lift anything heavy for a couple of months.

        I was out for about a week because I couldn’t move my arm enough to get dressed. That was when I found that my employer had a policy that if you were out for 5 days in a 90-day period, you were issued an official warning from HR and had better not take any more sick days in the next 90 days.

      2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        3 strikes is only a warning. From the OP’s answers below, it sounds like if you have 1 unlucky month the warnings lapse aafter 1 year and it doesn’t matter.
        If someone is sick 3 times per month, a few months per year, then coverage-type work is not for them. In fact any job in any country would struggle to allow that, unless the employee has an accommodation for chronic illness.

    6. Meep*

      I have chronic migraines caused by weather changes and live in monsoon territory. I would be let go so fast, tbh.

    7. kupo*

      I once had a manager make me go home because I was coughing. That was my only lingering symptom and I wasn’t contagious anymore; just lungs still irritated by the cold I’d caught at the office the week prior. That turned my one occurance into two and it wasn’t even my choice.

    8. goddessoftransitory*

      I’d like info on when/how the clock starts on the 30 days–does it start over at the beginning of every month, or if you got sick on, say, the 8th, you have two more sick days until the 8th of next month?

  2. Tim*

    #4 – I understand on a human level the concerns about ‘retaliation’, but, as Alison says, he’s already working effectively for free, I’m uncertain as to how he could be further punished. If, after pursuing the issue with the external authority, they suddenly started paying everyone *but him* then the whole situation becomes a lawyer’s wet dream.

    And if he’s worried that they’ll badmouth him to other prospective employers, remember that an early question in interviews is “Why did you leave your last job?” Answering that with “They didn’t pay me for months, despite frequent promises.” ends that discussion fairly quickly

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Not only this, (who is going to want to work for them in the future?), but it is affecting more than just the one person. I am curious why this as a group dynamic is escaping the people affected. Surely OP’s husband isn’t the only one likely to report this and to expect payment? Why then would he be singled out for retaliation? If they haven’t organised a group effort to report this wage theft in coordination with each other, they really should.

      2. ferrina*

        That was my first thought. The industry should know that this employer is problematic. If they don’t already, this is an easy thing to mention in interviews.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      With multiple coworkers not getting paid, I get the feeling that the business is unlikely to survive the labor board taking action.

      Which further protects his reputation once word of that spreads.

      1. Elsewise*

        Exactly what I was thinking. The company isn’t going to be around long enough to cause problems.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      Yes, and being able to say “here is the complaint filed with the labor board, which they found true, and forced them to pay us” is going to put everything on his side, even if the current job tries to badmouth him. There’s not really a lose situation here for filing the complaint!

    3. EllenD*

      A one off failure to pay be tolerated, if the company makes things right by covering any costs incurred through non-payment (eg overdraft charges, bounced payments) and apologises and explains the cause. If they’re not paying their staff is they company paying tax to the Government bodies, or, in US, the health insurance provider. I’d also be worried that if the company can’t pay people, then the company is probably trading insolvently, which in UK can be a criminal offence, and means it’s likely to go into receivership. While employees won’t be liable, directors and owners will be.

      1. Kyrielle*

        This! We had a failure to pay once at a previous job…because a temp filling in for someone on leave overwrote a whole group’s *pay* with the amount they were supposed to get for a bonus. They issued the corrected pay the following Monday, and had anyone with overcharges, etc., caused by the issue submit for reimbursement (which was processed post-haste, not in the usual lazy front-our-business-costs way they normally used).

    4. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      This is how workers are trained, always be scared of management so that you don’t act in your own best interest.

      What are they going to do, fire you? You are worried then you will be out of of a job and no income. Guess what, you have no income now. Might as well file the labor claim. Even if they fire you, they have to pay you for all the time worked right up until they fire you.

      1. Venus*

        The comment about a small industry makes it clear that the retaliation would be an inability to get a job anywhere else. Yet agreed with others that the request to the labor board can hopefully be anonymous, and not being paid is a legitimate problem that any other employer should understand.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Small industry works both ways. if they aren’t paying people, it will get around. Which doesn’t do wonders for their reputations because while employers love to exploit workers, getting the government up in your business is usually to be avoided.

      2. Artemesia*

        I’d also check to see if the health insurance is in force; if they are not paying wages they are probably also not paying the insurance and perhaps not paying the withholding taxes like social security.

        1. MassMatt*

          This. If they are failing on the most visible portion of their obligation–paying the employees–it’s a good bet they are failing in other crucial but less immediately visible ways–tax withholding, insurance, social security, paying suppliers, etc. It’s an old story, especially in businesses like restaurants.

          I’m amazed people in payroll and management etc even have the temerity to show their faces after failing to pay the staff for TWO MONTHS. And I’m amazed they still have employees! This business is not long from complete failure, your husband needs to start looking for work full time. Good luck!

        2. Texan In Exile*

          Holy smoke that would be my nightmare. I had a heart-stopping moment when I tried to get my husband’s Blue Cross of Michigan ID card on their website and they said he wasn’t on my plan.

          Turns out that his name – let’s say it’s Alexanderissimo – was too long for the name field. After I got my HR involved, we discovered that if I entered his name as “Alexanderi,” it was accepted.

          Blue Cross, I am still mad at you for not fixing an issue that has existed for decades.

          1. Bitte Meddler*

            At my last job, HR messed up when they entered my info into United Healthcare’s system. UHC couldn’t be bothered to fix my account so I had to have all my medical providers and my pharmacy change my name in *their* systems just to get UHC to stop denying my claims.

            Going with your example, if my name was Alexanderissimo Michael Lastname, UHC had me down as Alexandemic Lastname.

        3. Observer*

          I’d also check to see if the health insurance is in force; if they are not paying wages they are probably also not paying the insurance and perhaps not paying the withholding taxes like social security.

          Yes. This X1,000

          These guys are openly violating the law. What makes you think they won’t violate the law quietly.

          So you need worry about insurance and your taxes. And *that* could be an even bigger nightmare than insurance. Because if the IRS goes after you, that’s nightmare city all on its own.

    5. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing – this is a “what’s the worst that can happen” scenario. In a small industry, word gets around about lousy employers. While the OP’s husband is concerned about whether he might be retaliated against, his employer has a lot to lose in the long term, if it gets out to the industry that they are financially insolvent and don’t pay their staff.

      The OP’s husband should pursue this with the relevant authorities.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is where the rubber meets the road for me. I don’t work for free. I work with demanding, difficult people and have a work/life balance that would be unacceptable to some people for the money. None of my employers, no matter their other issues, have ever missed a paycheck. (There was an instance several years ago where an employer miscalculated benefits deductions that affected 2-3 checks, and there was a lot of apologizing, making sure everyone affected understood exactly what was happening/what to expect/how it would never happen again, and apology gift cards.)

      Any employer who thinks it’s unreasonable for an employee to expect to be paid fully and on time is now someone he’d want to work for anyway. What the are doing is illegal, and retaliating against him for reporting them would be a lawsuit waiting to happen. (I don’t know that there’d be any money at the end of it if they can’t make payroll already, but this is not just not right, it’s actually illegal.)

      This is my hill to die on. I expect to be paid on schedule and accurately, and I expect my team to be paid on schedule and accurately.

    7. Miette*

      There’s almost nothing a small industry loves more than a bit of gossip, and “not paying employees” far outstrips “complained to the labor board,” trust me.

      And if the employer bad-mouths your husband with lies instead, then the aforementioned lawyer’s wet dreams may have just gotten closer to reality…

    8. Mo*

      I knew someone working for a bankrupt small business that was often missing payroll (although they would make it up within a month or so). The reason no one reported it was that they knew it would shutter the business and then they wouldn’t be paid at all. (The fines and interest on back pay would be substantial.) I guess the trade-off was better in their minds to be paid less/less frequently while job searching.

      There was also a worry about the perception of forcing a small business to close, as opposed to a faceless corporation. People knew the owner and knew he was desperately trying to save his business. I don’t think I would have behaved the same way as my friend in the situation but I get the impulse on a human level.

    9. TG*

      He needs to get on the job hunt asap and I believe he can report the wage issue anonymously- he needs to get paid!

  3. Poppy*

    In California if you have sick time on the books you cannot be disciplined for using it. Better than a three strikes you’re out is if call outs consistently exceed sick time.

      1. TROI*

        The use of sick leave is generally protected in California, but certain groups are exempt and there are circumstances where you are able to be disciplined for using it.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yup. In the UK the law allows you to require doctor’s notes for anything over seven working days’ absence. In our org, instances work like in OP’s system, and this incentivises people staying off to recover but the occurrences are pegged at 3 instances per six months and 5 per 12 months. We’re actually /mandated/ to report what has kept someone off for so that we can ensure the occupational health aspect is covered and employers are allowed to monitor leave closely with instance systems. They can’t just sack someone for reaching the limit, but they can have conversations about whether you’re able to hold down the job. I’ve seen the fallout of this twice first hand when my issues were overwhelming me; the first time we both agreed that my health struggles were not compatible with the job my boss needed me to do, and the second time my employer was larger and more supportive but was still laying down the law that although they knew what was happening in the background, they were needing more consistent coverage and offered me a leave of absence. In the end, the issues were about to be moot anyway because my husband died a few weeks later and I came back from bereavement leave bored and ready to get back to work, but they had needs as well as I did. OP also has needs.

          In my experience of UK rights, it’s a more collectivist system inasmuch as the greater rights to sick leave, statutory sick pay etc are offset by a greater responsibility on the part of the employee to be honest with us. To be honest, over the normal course of my working life, three unplanned absences a month sounds really unusual. It might happen, and there have been times before when I was struggling with personal stuff (when my husband was ill) but I talked to my managers about it and kept them appraised of what was going on.

          So there are ways that a responsible employee handles this kind of thing. The OP is trying to run a service that needs people she employs to be around and working. If she thinks someone is taking the [proverbial], she’s within her rights to ask IMO. She needs the coverage, and while we’re all speculating why the employee should be ok taking three instances off a month (which is significant however you slice it because she says these can be multiple days at a time, and when it would be VERY unusual for anyone I’ve worked with to do) she herself has a question which is being ignored here.

          1. TechWorker*

            Fwiw this sounded wrong to me & I checked & it is just 7 days, not 7 working days (gov website explicitly says it includes weekends and non working days like bank holidays). So if you are off for a full week you need the sick note for the next week.

          2. Michigander*

            Also in the UK. Ours is 3 periods in 6 months or 10 in 12 months, but nothing negative automatically happens when you hit that. You appear on a report and your manager is supposed to have a talk with you to check in but that can be the end of it unless they think you’ll need more accommodations going forward. It is definitely not about disciplinary action and firing the sick person. I think a big difference also is that we have separate leave to take if your kids are sick, so you wouldn’t be calling in sick if you aren’t actually the person who is sick.

            1. Lara Ness*

              Ours is similar (but has a trigger point both for the total days off in a rolling 12 month period and for the number of separate absences in the same period) and yeah, the intention is not punitive but supportive – if I have been off enough to require a meeting, my manager will meet with me to consider if there are any actions the employer can take to support my health and well-being, if I need to meet with occupational health for an assessment, etc.

            2. londonedit*

              We don’t have a set number of sick days/instances where I work – you record sick time on the HR system when you come back from self-certified illness, whether it’s one day or a working week, and then it works as GythaOgden says where it’s more of a collaborative thing where if you do end up with repeated absences then your manager will ask about it from the point of view of ‘is there something we need to do to help’ and ‘should you actually be taking longer-term sick leave for this’. For long-term sickness that’s signed off by a GP the company tops up statutory sick pay so you receive your full salary, for a maximum of 12 weeks. And then again if you’ve been signed off longer-term, when you return you’ll have a meeting with HR and your manager to discuss things like a phased return, any occupational health things you might need, any other accommodations, etc etc. It’s from a perspective of ‘what do you need in order to get back to full speed’ rather than being punitive.

              1. Michigander*

                I’m American and when I started my first UK job I had to clarify that there was no bank of sick days. I figured I had just missed the information somewhere but nope, you just let your boss know and that’s it.

            3. AnonForThis*

              (Also in UK) Our trigger point is 3 sick leaves in a rolling twelve month time frame. I hit that recently, actually, which is why I know. Thankfully my boss looked at it and went, yeah a couple of colds in a year plus one other is totally normal. But the way HR have worded it means they might yet come back because we didn’t fill in the “discussed consequences of having three or more absences” box.

              Given some of the stories of what they’ve said to people re sick leave before, I’ve no idea if they’ll be sensible about it or not.

              1. InsanePolicies*

                that’s insane. I don’t know anyone who could meet that criteria. No one.

                1. AnonForThis*

                  It absolutely is.

                  I’m assuming it’s just so they can keep a monitor on patterns and stuff, but come on, three *in a year*? Thankfully my boss is sensible (about this) and is happily ignoring the “Are they approaching the trigger point (3 absences in twelve months)?” line. Tbf it doesn’t say what it triggers, so it’ll be fun to find out if they decide to question it.

          3. I forgot my user name again*

            I’ve had an employee give me a real Dr. Note but not from where they said they were. The employee had all kinds of issues. To this day (even after having my own health issues), I believe this person faked a cancer diagnosis. But in this instance, they were supposed to have been in the hospital for a few days with stress related heart issues. I said I need a note, to confirm they were able to return to work with no restrictions. We worked in a retail environment where you would be on your feet for an 8 hour shift. After being a few hours late for work the day of their return-which was typical-I was presented with a note from a walk-in clinic, not the hospital where they had supposedly been for the past 3 days. It said they were cleared for duty, so I just ignored it, as it was part of a greater pattern of issues that my boss was ignoring at the time and left me powerless to deal with. I have at least a weeks worth of stories about this employee.

            1. Donn*

              I saw someone who provided a doctor’s note for an accommodation, but it could have been from a family member who was a doctor.

              The note was entirely handwritten on a generic medical facility memo shert. The doctor’s info was available online, and if they were a relative (same last name) they were in a completely different medical specialty from the accommodation.

          4. amoeba*

            I find that so interesting! In Germany, a doctor’s note can actually be required from day one – in my field, it’s typically after three days (same here in Switzerland). After one day isn’t super unusual, but seen as quite strict and… not a very trusting/nice place to work, I’d say.
            However, the employer isn’t informed of the reason at all – the note just says “unable to work for X time”. Not even from which kind of doctor it is (because obviously, something like “oh, she got a note from her gynecologist” could already disclose much more that people might be willing to!)
            For “child sick days” (which are separate from normal sick leave and unfortunately not unlimited…) you used to need a doctor’s note from day one in general, but I believe they’ve recently finally changed that.

            1. Tau*

              I think the name of the doctor’s office is on the note in such a way that it’s often clear what type of doctor you went to? I remember handing in a sick note when I was super super anaemic, realising it said it had been issued by a doctor for blood diseases and oncology, and deciding I should probably reassure my boss that I didn’t have cancer.

              1. amoeba*

                In Germany at least, there’s two versions – one you get for yourself which has the name of the doctor, etc. and one for the employer, which doesn’t give any information. (I mean, I guess if you have the paper form, you could google the name of the doctor? Or if they use a stamp? But as far as I know, it’s at least not supposed to be visible which type of doctor it’s from!)

                Since last year, that’s obsolete anyway and it can be verified electronically at the health insurance, but apparently some employers aren’t that digital yet and still ask for the paper slip which officially shouldn’t be used anymore…

            2. Lea*

              My office can require after three days of illness, but I don’t recall having ever been asked for it. Maybe if it’s a long term
              Illness, or you need to dip into different types of leave they would?

              Three instances heck I take off for cramps
              Sometimes what an annoying policy. I think if it’s yours you should be able to use it but if someone abuses leave they can be put on a different type of monitoring system

            3. Turquoisecow*

              I’ve had to get a note for my kid to go back to school and I had to get a note when I went back to work after surgery and in both cases it just said “X is cleared to return to work/school on (date).”

              (In my kid’s case it was “after 24 hours fever free,” the school required a note and 24 hours without fever or medications to reduce fever, the doctor just confirmed there wasn’t a serious illness but we didn’t have to go back to the doctor to confirm there was no fever, that part was trusted to me.)

        2. Poppy*

          It’s generally correct for many employers. Yes, there will always be exceptions.

    1. Goldie*

      Hmmmm… in CA you can have rules around needing Dr. notes to miss more than a certain number of days of sick leave. I have hundreds of hours of sick leave. At a certain point I have to be able to prove that I am actually sick if I was going to use it all at once.

    2. Hyaline*

      The “have sick time on the books” may be the caveat here—the LW’s situation sounds like she’s hiring part time, hourly employees and runs a small business, which means she might not provide sick time (or be required to provide sick leave per her states laws).

  4. Heidi*

    I’m struggling to conceptualize what it means to be “qualitatively-inclined,” like LW2’s job candidate. I feel like it should be the opposite of “quantitatively-inclined,” but that seems rather counterintuitive considering the role is for a business analyst. Is this some kind of new corporate terminology or personality inventory thing?

    1. periwinkle*

      My org has a lot of data analysts who can deal with numbers but it’s much more difficult to find someone who is also comfortable with triangulating empirical quantitative data (which tells you what happened, when, and to what extent) with qualitative info (what’s the impact and what are the probable root causes).

      So my value as a data analyst is that I’m qualitatively inclined as well as quantitatively inclined; I can do both kinds of analysis and then put it all together to paint a picture of what’s happening and why. Looks like the OP is looking for someone with that skill combination.

      1. Kaitlyn*

        Ooh, I do program evaluation and would love to position myself as a qualitative data specialist – can you say more about how you got to where you are?

    2. BadMitten*

      I’m in academia—qualitative research means things like focus groups, long interviews, etc. Quantitative is running the statistics, looking at datasets, coding.

      If this job is something like working for market research, the person might be in charge of running focus groups/small surveys, but also need to use big data from datasets in their reports. But I have no idea what the job is! I just know that in academia qual and quant have clearly defined definitions.

    3. Let’s Bagel*

      LW here — this was a typo on my end. I meant to say quantitatively inclined!

      1. Filosofickle*

        Ha this doesn’t surprise me at all because I am a qualitative researcher / strategist, and no one is looking for me!

    4. Spero*

      My sister and I work in different industries but both of us work in roles that mediate between ‘hard data’ like epidemiology/coders and the public/customers, where our main value is in translating the concerns of the two groups to the other and training other people on how to explain the hard data to non-SME folks in plain language that is nevertheless accurate. Both of us are working outside our original training and have been poached/tried to poach to industries that have nothing to do with our current experience because the ability to move between hard quantitative data and qualitative/customer experience type concerns without losing one in favor of the other is seen as a cross-cutting skill. Data visualization was a big trend in the evaluation field about a decade ago in part because it was tapping into this skill.
      For what it’s worth, in my family it’s also recognized as an ADHD related skill!

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      For a BA, I’d want someone with strong quantitative and qualitative skills. Basically, someone excellent with numbers, data, and making meaning from them but also able to put that into narrative and factor in aspects that are not reflected in the quantitative data.

      We discussed quantitative and qualitative research back in the dark ages when I was in college, so it’s not newfangled corporate speak. Because the metrics available to me when I took on my current job were so poor , I ended up doing a qualitative analysis of evaluation and exit interview feedback to get the information I needed.

  5. Language Lover*

    lw #1, your employee shouldn’t create fake doctor’s notes. However, you asked for a doctor’s note after the employee had visited urgent care.

    I’ve never been in a workplace where doctor’s notes are required so maybe it’s easier than I think but I suspect it’s much easier to get a doctor’s note during an appointment than getting one after–especially since it’s not from their regular doctor. They might have seen a nurse, physician’s assistant or MD.

    I’m also curious what about it looks fake. I have an employee who has tried to give me doctor’s notes before even though I’ve told her repeatedly I don’t need them. From what I’ve seen of them, they looked like gobbeldy gook.

    By all means follow up if you think they’re lying about their illness but you might be better off having a conversation with your employee to see if they think they’ll be resolve their attendance issues.

    1. Katie Impact*

      Yeah, I’ve gone to a doctor and been given a note that literally just said “(Katie Impact) cannot work for 2 days due to a medical condition” in doctor-handwriting. It might be fake but it also might just be a kinda slipshod note; doctors don’t generally consider giving out notes to be the most important part of their job or worth putting in a lot of effort.

      1. KateM*

        Living in a country where those are required as soon as your kid is home more than three days in a row, my doctor has a standardized form for notes. And she always not only signs but also stamps with her official stamp. That’s for kids, though, adults get their sick leave opened and closed in official electronic channels.

        1. amoeba*

          Yup, we get those automatically electronically transferred to our insurance provider, and the employer can get them online! You can also get a paper copy though, but that’s very much formalised. I do get the impression that it’s much less standardised in the US…

          1. Matt*

            As far as I read on AAM, doctor’s notes don’t seem to be very common in the US since there is so much “at will” and so little social security. At least in Germany, Austria and the like, doctor’s notes are very common since not only employers require them, but so does the mandatory health insurance since they might be required to cover a sick employee’s salary after a certain time of illness. The positive side is that you don’t need to worry about ending up without a job or without payment as much as in the US. The downside is that most employees have to get doctor’s notes (in most jobs for more than three days of sick leave) and general practitioners spend a lot of their time just for issuing them (and have little time for patients in real need of medical help).

            1. Amy*

              You need them when you are tapping into the social programs in the US. Like accessing short-term disability and workman’s comp.

            2. Nightengale*

              I write them all the time in the US for kids for school and we also offer the parent one for work. Actually the front desk usually prints them for me from a template. It does not give any diagnoses but the letterhead does have my specialty on it. This is not usually much of a concern because I take care of children with developmental and behavioral disabilities and the school already knows the child has these needs!

              The boilerplate is pretty much

              [NAME] was seen today for a scheduled office [or video] visit. Please excuse [pronoun] for this appointment. [Pronoun] may return to school [today/tomorrow] with no restrictions.

            3. Cyborg Llama Horde*

              Yes, it’s not at all formalized in the US. Some doctors will give you a legit-looking, legible note on letterhead, and some doctors will give you unintelligible scrawl — it can depend a lot on how big the practice is and whether the doctor is old-school or not.

            4. Ontariariario*

              In Canada they are typically only required after a week at minimum, because it’s a burden on doctors to write notes for people who have a simple cold or similar. Plus it would require someone with a cold to go out of their home to get the note, exposing them to whatever is at the doctor’s clinic and others to their illness. Now that we live in a world of video calls it seems more reasonable for employees to call into a doctor’s service to get a note, but it still feels extreme for an illness of a day or two.

              1. Buffalo*

                I suspect I’m from the same part of the world as you, and where we come from, asking for a doctor’s note is not a place to stand *or* a place to grow.

              2. Kyrielle*

                At least once I had to get a note for a really nasty viral cold-symptomy thing that went on 3+ days, and I still didn’t need to see a doctor except to get the note. I actually apologized for wasting her time, and we both laughed together at the stupidity, and she wrote me a note that I was too sick to work and could return as soon as I was feeling well enough, based on my description of my symptoms. Such a waste of time.

              3. Observer*

                Now that we live in a world of video calls it seems more reasonable for employees to call into a doctor’s service to get a note, but it still feels extreme for an illness of a day or two.

                Yes, unreasonable. Sure at least people don’t have to get themselves to a place where could get sicker and make others sick. But also, all you have documented is that you told the practice that you are sick, nothing else. So a waste of time and resources.

            5. amoeba*

              Yeah, and I guess it’s also different in countries with (basically) unlimited sick leave. I can see why employers don’t ask for doctor’s notes as frequently in the US, as the mere fact that you have a limited amount of days obviously makes it pretty unattractive to take sick leave when you’re not sick!
              With unlimited, I see why you want a system in place to prevent abuse, because otherwise I could just decide to take multiple weeks/months per year, and not even easily be fired for it. Which is great! But it’s fine that you need a doctor to sign off on it.

            6. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

              We also generally have to pay to see the doctor in the US (except for some preventive care visits) so going to the doctor for them to say “Yes, you have a bad cold, stay home” is not only pointless (there’s nothing they can do that’s better than OTC meds you have at home anyway) and counterproductive (since you’ll expose others to your cold and be exposed to whatever they have) but costs money.

            7. fhqwhgads*

              The other downside in the US is that you might be unwell enough to not work, but not unwell enough you really feel like you need a doctor, but requiring the note usually means requiring a visit, and with the way health insurance works in the US requiring a visit requires someone to pay for said visit. So if the employee, for example, doesn’t get paid sick days AND is forced to get a note, you’re making them lose money in two ways for being sick: once by not paying them while they’re out and again by forcing them to spend money to get the note. That’s why requiring them in the US is a particularly shitty thing to do, unless it’s for something major.

        2. Turquoisecow*

          I’m in the US but when I’ve needed a note for my kid to go back to school the doctor had a pre-signed template the office staff would print out and hand to me, just standard procedure. I’ve also been to medical facilities for myself and been asked if I needed a note for work (I didn’t) so I imagine they also had a standard template.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            I went to the ER couple years ago, and at the release they provided me with the note even though I didn’t even ask for one. They had a standard template.

      2. Doreen*

        The doctor’s note may have seemed fake because there was too much detail- most of those I’ve seen say something like “Doreen was seen in this office today and can return to work on June 8 . “ The ones (from clients) that turned out to be fake either had way too much detail (included a diagnosis or specified treatment ) or had something that just seemed off , like the one signed “Dr. Ryan Hope MD”

        1. Archi-detect*

          here is one from an urgent care I got this winter- I ended up not even sending it and getting to stay home (WFH) two weeks as I wanted anyway, by just asking my manager for what I wanted.


          1. doreen*

            I might not have been clear – that’s pretty much exactly what I expect a real doctor’s note to look like. The fake ones I’ve seen tend to be more like ” Doreen was seen in this office on Tuesday. She can return to work Wednesday but she has cancer and will be absent additional days for chemotherapy” . I cannot imagine a medical provider writing that.

        2. InsanePolicies*

          In the rare cases when I’ve needed a doctor’s note they were expected to include diagnoses or they wouldn’t have been accepted. They needed proof there was an actual, validated medical issue.

          1. Project Maniac-ger*

            Uh requiring a doctor’s note to have a diagnosis is an ADA violation… just did my training today and that was literally one of the questions on the final quiz.

    2. Cmdrshprd*

      “maybe it’s easier than I think but I suspect it’s much easier to get a doctor’s note during an appointment than getting one after–especially since it’s not from their regular doctor”

      In my experience urgent cares give you a printout called a visit summary or after visit summary. it usually has the date/time of visit, medical professional(s) seen, purpose of visit, and after care instructions and when to follow up. If you don’t get it, you can usually log into the online portal and access the electronic copy.

      I have called in the past and been able to get a copy of summary/referrals printed and picked up after the visit.

      Based on OPs wording, they really just wanted to confirm employee was actually sick and went to the urgent care. I imagine they would accept this as a “dr.s note.”

      If employee did go to urgent care, I don’t think it would be that hard to get a copy of the documentation, or a note co firming they visited.

      1. RC*

        When I ended up in urgent care and then the ER on a Monday and a Thursday (is that counted as one event, I wonder?), my ER discharge paperwork came with a doctor’s note saying I’d been in the ER (which my work didn’t need, and then I felt sad about why this was their default). Urgent care didn’t give me anything, though. After-visit summaries might have more medical info than they want to disclose.

        Sounds like there are other issues at play, though.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          I was in urgent care last month, and they asked if I needed a note.

          1. I'm just here for the cats!*

            Yeah my local urgent care is connected to the ER and hospital. Basically they triage you and decide if its UC or Emergency. In every room there is a sign stating “are you here for a work related injury, tell the provider that it is workers comp” and a sign stating “Ask the provider for a work or school note.”

            I’ve been for both UC and emergency and each of the rooms say that. In fact some of the clinic rooms where I see my primary has the same workers comp sign.

        2. Smithy*

          I think in the US because doctor’s notes aren’t the norm, we can be less inclined to be aware when we need to ask for them. But more so as an FYI, most places – even urgent care – will provide a note that has the medical information more redacted if you call after the visit and ask for one.

          Another option would always be to take that more detailed after visit summary, print it out and personally redact medical information you didn’t want to share. Basically sharpie over stuff, and leave the other information visible, and then make a copy of that.

          1. PaymentForNotes*

            Not true. Most doctors I’ve seen or worked with require a visit to generate a note or complete any other type of paperwork. That’s because otherwise they don’t get reimbursed for it. I’ve waited 4 months for an appointment to get a note one employer wanted because that’s the only way to get it.

            Asking for a note after the fact is evil.

      2. Nah*

        The problem with the summary is just that, though. Your employer doesn’t need to know anything more than “Yes, Worker A was here on Monday”. Unless we’re discussing two *very* different documents, I certainly would *not* be comfortable giving my boss a list of every medical issue I have (which have always been included in any printed visit summary I’ve gotten) and the details of my appointment.

        Honestly I’d just get an email from the front desk confirming they were there. That’s generally accepted, at least for people I know that’ve needed notes.

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          Urgent care where I live insists on putting some really unnecessary details in your paperwork too, like BMI. (Which is debunked thoroughly enough their insistence on taking it doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence, but I digress).

          1. Sneaky Squirrel*

            Same. My urgent care gives me an entire print out about how I need to consider dieting and exercise because I’m literally just 1 point above healthy in the BMI scale (no points for the fact that I’ve actually lost a lot of weight between urgent care visits apparently). I went in for a broken bone so.. super relevant.

            1. Parakeet*

              I’ve wondered if some insurances require this. My doctor is not otherwise fat-shamey but gives me brief boilerplate stuff about diet and exercise every time. She gave it to me even after I had just run a half marathon after months of training (which she knew because I told her about at the same appointment) and was mostly following my spouse’s “heart healthy” diet that she prescribed. I pointed this out and she said something to the effect of “Yeah, I know.” Which made me think it was a box that she had to check for everyone above a certain BMI.

          2. Frieda*

            I got a doctor’s note from a college student (I didn’t ask for a note but she missed class at the end of the semester for emergency surgery and I think sent the note to all her instructors) that included her primary diagnosis, which was definitely not my business, and a description of the procedure, which was also not my business. I was sorry that she felt like she had to send me very personal information in order to make sure she could get alternate assignments in lieu of an in-class presentation, and therefore graduate. (Which she did!)

            I have heard about instructors asking for things like the receipt from the tire place if you had a flat tire, which also seems like a request you only make when the student has a long history of pushing boundaries for excused absences.

        2. Seashell*

          The employer might need to know if you have anything that is contagious (certainly it would be relevant if the employee had COViD or the flu) or if you were physically unable to do your job.

          1. Happily Retired*

            In which case, the note should specify that the employee has a contagious disease (unnamed) or is physically unable (unspecified as to exactly why) to do their job. It is NOT the employer’s business to know the dreary details of illness.

            Exception: if it’s a worker’s comp issue (injury on the job, etc.)

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, I’ve never had that exact situation, but I don’t think it would be too difficult for the receptionist or admin at urgent care to check the record of a visit, type up “LW was seen at this facility on x date” and then stamp it with the facility’s name/official stamp or get a doctor to sign it. Or even just write it up on paper with the facility’s name at the top. I’d assume they could send that out if you just phoned them up.

        1. Pickwick*

          The documentation of a visit is one thing, but employers may also want confirmation that the employee is unable to work, and that may be harder to obtain, depending on the doctor or clinic.

      4. Pickwick*

        In the US–I was asked to get a note after the fact, following an urgent care clinic visit where I saw a doctor I didn’t know, received a few prescriptions, and then missed four days of work for an emergent condition. The clinic gave me no way to get in touch with the doctor directly, but his MA passed on a message to the doctor. Eventually, a 20-word letter appeared in my online patient portal excusing me from work for the ten-minute period of the appointment.

        Fortunately for me, my boss rolled her eyes and waived the policy.

        1. I'm just here for the cats!*

          I wonder if its something like that. That if the letter is more detailed it was a doctor who didn’t know exactly what was needed.

        2. I Have RBF*

          … excusing me from work for the ten-minute period of the appointment.

          WTF? Is that malicious compliance on their part or what? Did they forget about the time you had to spend in their f’ing waiting room?

          Seriously, that’s asinine.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            It’d make more sense to note only the date and not the time at all, but I could see him for some idiotic reason not wanting to vouch for time he wasn’t explicitly with the patient since he can’t speak to how long or when that was. So it makes sense to me he wouldn’t try to guestimate the waiting room. Although probably in their system the time the patient checked in is an available field, so either: he was overzealously trying not to claim things he can’t personally claim OR he clicked the wrong date in a dropdown and should’ve had the note autogen itself with the text of the check-in, not when he personally walked in.

            1. Pickwick*

              This was my first and only telehealth appointment, if that makes a difference! I wasn’t in the waiting room, as I was actually (and suddenly) having trouble walking; that was the subject of the appointment.

              I haven’t otherwise asked a doctor for a note, so I’ve been interested to read about others’ experience of doing so. It seems like some doctors’ offices are better at handling it than others.

          2. Pickwick*

            I wondered at the time! Thanks for reassuring me that I’m not the only one who sees it that way.

            Given that experience, I’d go farther out of my way to see my normal doctor next time, trusting that 1) I’d be able to talk to her directly about what kind of note I need, and 2) she wouldn’t ever write a note of such minimal usefulness.

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Most urgent cares these days have patient portals. I would be able to print out an “after visit summary” for my visit even if I didn’t get a note per se. My last one for my kid says visit for otitis media, states the antibiotic she should take, and return if fever persists or something. I provide that to her school if I need something much of the time.

    4. Snow Globe*

      Are you suggesting that if the employee failed to get a doctor’s note at the time of the visit, then they are justified in creating a fake note after the LW asked for one? If they actually went to urgent care, they should be able to call or email and ask for a doctors note to be sent to them. Or provide other documentation (with private health info redacted).

      1. ecnaseener*

        No, they’re not suggesting that. You can tell by their first sentence: “your employee shouldn’t create fake doctor’s notes.”

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yeah, but the next part sounded like an excuse for why it’s the LW’s fault if it is fake, so I can see why Snow Globe asked

          1. ecnaseener*

            Both can be true: faking the note would not be justifiable, AND the policy has created a situation that incentivizes faking a note.

      2. Kay*

        In my experience I haven’t been able to get urgent care to answer their phone – when their own doctor called me and told me to call them back (odd situation and medical screw up)! Then when I decided to simply drive in, there wasn’t anyone at the reception desk for close to 20 minutes. I’m not saying forging a note is the way to go, but if the employee’s job was at risk and this was what she was trying to deal with to save it – I can see how that may have transpired.

    5. Bast*

      What triggers needing a doctor’s note from at most of my jobs or my husband’s job is being out 3 consecutive days or more OR, since Covid, a picture of a positive Covid test is also sufficient if you’re claiming Covid. Our doctor’s notes look wildly different depending on where they came from. Recently, my son injured his ankle and landed in the ER. The doctor’s note given there was a simple, typed note with a typed signature that anyone with a computer could have typed up, though it did list the ER’s number and advise to call if they had questions. “Son’s Name was seen in ER Name on This Date. If you have any concerns, please call ER at 123-456-7890.” John Doe, PA. Our children’s PCP notes look a little more formal on letterhead. The ER one definitely looked a bit questionable.

    6. EJC*

      I found a fake doctor’s note once because an employee had misspelled her doctor’s first name. It was an unusual but not unheard of name (for example, Mathew instead of Matthew) but it happened to be the way her boyfriend’s name was also spelled. Obviously this employee and I already had major trust issues due to her lying about many things repeatedly, which is what made me look twice at the doctor’s note to begin with. Lo and behold, the doctor was a real doctor, but he used the more traditional spelling and also the address and phone number on the note did not have a doctor’s office associated with them.

    7. blah*

      We’re supposed to take LW at their word – if they have reason to believe it’s fake, then it’s fake. What they’re looking for is advice on how to handle things if the note is fake.

      1. Jackalope*

        The LW said that she thinks it looks fake but isn’t sure, and so is asking both about how to verify it (see the last sentence of the letter) and then how to handle it if it is fake. Responses to how to tell if the note is fake or ideas on verifying it are in line with the OP’s actual question.

    8. Helena Handbasket*

      As someone that has experienced their fair share of health issues, I have never had issues getting a doctor’s note. Perhaps it is that state I was located in (within the US), but I could always call after and have the clinic/ER/urgent care mail/fax/email me the letter. It’s normally very straightforward (Patient X was seen at this date at this location) and sometimes will have an additional line or two on work restrictions/return-to-work ability.

    9. TiffIf*

      I went to urgent care a month or so ago (sliced the pad off my thumb, had to get it cauterized because it would not stop bleeding) and as part of my discharge paperwork there was a note I could have given to my employer stating the date I had been seen at urgent care and when I could return to work. I didn’t ask for it; I think they just always provide it as a matter of course. Doesn’t cause any lost time to provide it up front and can save the hassle of somebody having to come back and ask for one later.

      I think it would be great if offices just always did this as standard practice.

      1. Star Trek Nutcase*

        I worked for a state agency, and a doctor’s note was required after 3 days consecutive sick days. In practice, lots of supervisor’s didn’t require one except for problematic employees. I only once provided one (not a me issue but a PITA grand boss one) after 5 days in the hospital. I provided a copy of my discharge papers which I heavily REDACTED. GB was not happy but I made clear I’d take it to agency-level HR. Presto it was fine. (My direct supervisor knew my diagnosis [kidney stones] cause I didn’t care and knew she was a
        vault.) I always advise redaction of “any” personal medical info unless workers’ compensation is at issue.

    10. Wilbur*

      In my area they’ve put up signs at the front desks detailing a charge for doctors notes, usually in the range of $15-20. I can imagine, after paying $100+ for urgent care that you wouldn’t want to pay more for a note. Especially if you’re in the service industry where you’re wage might be $2.13/hour before tips.

    11. Coverage Associate*

      I worked for a small women’s healthcare practice in the United States for 7 years. It was rare for us to be asked to provide notes for work. We didn’t always have a form. I think we had a form to confirm a patient had seen the doctor on x day, but not a form to confirm that a patient needed x time off or was cleared to return to work. We definitely didn’t have a form for accommodations, because that varied from person to person. When we did make our own letters/notes/forms, they could have been on plain paper rather than a letterhead or anything. Our visit confirmation form wasn’t on letterhead back in my daY.

      If a patient needed a note after leaving the office, I could see it taking a few business days to get one to the patient, since it would have to be drafted, proofed, corrected, signed and sent, and wasn’t urgent medical care, by definition. Our doctors were usually off one business day per week too.

      If a patient needed a note before returning to work and didn’t know that at their last clinic visit, I could see going to urgent care or a minute clinic for the note rather than waiting for the specialist they saw for treatment to get caught up on paperwork. Minute clinics I know have forms for that.

      Agree that a visit summary or discharge paperwork has way too much information for an employer, unless they will accept it with everything but the top “time and date of visit” redacted.

      I suggest that workplaces that will regularly require medical documentation make their own forms employees can take to providers.

    12. Bitte Meddler*

      My doc gave me a stack of signed blank Doctor’s Note forms: “[PatientName] is in my care and may return to work on [date].”

      This was back when I worked for a horrid company that required notes for any absence longer than a single day. (Yay, I have the flu and a temp of 102F but I can’t just sleep and get better, I have to drag myself to an urgent care center for the sole purpose of obtaining a note).

      My doc said, “You’re a grown adult and know when you can’t / shouldn’t go to work. Fill these out however you see fit.”

      He also said that doctor’s notes were one of the more annoying — and sad — parts of his job, right up there with filling out Prior Authorization forms for a prescription that he had already authorized.

    13. Meep*

      Around here, at least since COVID – doctors will provide a note saying you took time off to get a flu/covid shot or that you had an appointment without any information unprompted. Then again, I leave near a large university so they probably do that a lot for college students.

    14. Blue Pen*

      This isn’t directed at you at all, but frankly, I find the whole concept of “getting a doctor’s note” utterly ridiculous and offensive. We are all adults who should have the appropriate amount of sick time at work and be treated as such.

  6. Awkwardness*

    I think #2 is an amazing read. Good for OP2 for not stopping at “the candidate did impress me” and questioning themself further!

    1. BadMitten*

      Right? Very glad they’re taking potential biases into account! They sound like the sort of person you’d want to be in charge of hiring.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed! the OP seems to have done a good assessment in the first round of interviews, but kudos for going beyond to examine whether they have implicit biases.

      Having a couple rounds of interviews is helpful for this. So is having a set of standardized questions that all candidates have to answer, so you can compare apples to apples.

      If one candidate really stands out from a skills/experience/fit perspective, though – that’s okay.

  7. LD RN*

    #1 — I’m jealous. I get a verbal warning if I call off four times in a 12 month period! I ended up getting intermittent FMLA because I called off three times between November and March — twice because of a flare up of a chronic neck issue and once because of illness.

    I’m a nurse.

    1. DeskApple*

      as a nurse?! that’s an awful awful policy!!! you’re more exposed to illnesses than absolutely everyone else!

    2. Nurse Ratched*

      Yep- ICU RN at a world famous medical center here and we get 4 occurrences in 12 months,
      *and* awful health insurance.

      1. BadMitten*

        Jeez! May I ask why you don’t job search? Do most RN jobs in your area have similar policies?

        1. Washi*

          Healthcare jobs are rough. I’m a social worker at a hospital and part of our standard performance review state that I’m not supposed to call out for more than 3-5 days the whole year.

          Fortunately my boss is reasonable and didn’t ding me because during my son’s first year in daycare we were all sick at least monthly.

          1. PSU RN*

            Can confirm healthcare/nurse jobs across all hospital systems have sick policies like this. You must be actively dying in order to call out, but you’ll still hear about it. Wonder why all these hospitals have staffing issues?

        2. Abigail*

          Healthcare is currently in a staffing crisis because of policies like this. There might not be many other, or better, options available.

          Also something for people to keep in mind when they complain about healthcare workers.

        3. Insert Clever Name Here*

          My SIL is an ED nurse and every single hospital in our metropolitan area has similar leave policies — she would have to move to a different area to find a different leave policy (and it’s unlikely that the leave policy would be better).

  8. Salamander Jones*

    LW#1, it sounds like your workplace is a bit unreasonable in its expectations. Three strikes in 30 days is not much at all—it wouldn’t even have to be a life-changing/threatening situation. The expectation that attendance is so important to a job that employees cannot miss a certain number of days within a month is ridiculous, but it also doesn’t make sense! Even if they procure the note, they’ve still missed those days so what’s the difference except this perception of what should be expected from employees?

    And do these employees get sick days or any other kind of PTO? I’m having a hard time imagining that regular attendance would be that important if you’re also giving your employees their PTO.

    1. Cmdrshprd*

      OP said it is not three days/strikes, but rather call outs periods. so like one call-out for 2 days is one strike, a second call out for 3 days is two strikes, and a third call out for 1 day is three strikes, in total it’s been 6 days out but only 3 strikes.

      The idea behind the note being optional is to try and show that you really were sick and not just calling off because you wanted to go to a concert or party you forgot to request off.

      planned time off is fine, when I worked retail we had some PTO and unlimited unpaid time off. knowing in advance they could work the schedule to have otherd work that shift. it is the last minute nature that often means you need x number of employees to work in retail/food service.

      1. Kella*

        I think the question here is, what’s the point of a doctor’s note if regardless of the reason, you get a strike for missing work? The doctor’s note implies that you won’t get a strike if it’s a “legitimate” reason but that doesn’t seem to match the rest of what OP said about the policy.

        1. Myrin*

          OP has some leeway if a doctor’s note is provided (“I will take that into consideration to delay a written warning”). The policy seems pretty strict but OP manages to be reasonable/realistic and somewhat flexible, and the doctor’s note helps her with that.

        2. Cmdrshprd*

          From OP:
          “I do not require a doctor’s note or any other type of proof, but if you provide me with one, I will take that into consideration to delay a written warning if it seems like circumstances were really outside of your control.”

          I took that to mean that if you provide a Dr.s note that OP would likely not count it against you. If you were on 2 strikes and get sick bring in a Dr.s note you won’t get a 3rd strike/writeup.

        3. bekind*

          Sounds like the OP has the ability to (unofficially?) ignore the policy if they feel like it’s out of the employee’s control, and they base that decision on whether or not it was serious enough for the employee to see a doctor. So with this particular supervisor, showing you’ve seen a doctor (and are not just hungover, for example) might get the strike withheld.

    2. Green great dragon*

      The key here is how the employer approaches the discussion. It should be a trigger to check, not an automatic anything.

      Our system kicked in after 12 days in a year (personal sick days only) but all I’ve ever done is agree with the employee they’d had a tough year and documented as no further action. Other circumstances might have led to an occupational health referral (eg days off were for back ache), suggesting they plan to take leave (always the day after a big football game), change their work patterns (chronic health issues meant full time was too much) or start a PIP (always off on busy days).

      OP does seem to be doing this, though from the wording I suspect others in their company are not.

    3. EJC*

      There are many jobs in which missing several days a month repeatedly would be untenable. Teachers, childcare workers, many doctors and nurses, receptionists, security officers…yes, there should be coverage for sick days, but at a certain point if a person needs that much time off due to illness they should take short term disability or maybe they’re not all that well-suited for a shift work-style job.

      1. Bast*

        Life happens. I worked food service for a time, and calling out unless you could find coverage was a no-no, however, we would come in and be puking in the bathroom in between serving customers, with a temperature at 100+ etc or risk losing our job. Not exactly ideal for the worker or the customer. Do you want someone serving your food who likely has a communicable disease? The funny thing about all the jobs you mention is that they are jobs where people are frequently exposed to germs and the public. Throwing Covid into the mix is a new element, even though now apparently we are ignoring Covid’s existence. Particularly during cold and flu season, I expect people to get sick more frequently than they may in the summer, and while these jobs have less tolerance than some others, why would you want someone with Covid or norovirus coming in close contact with you? I’m sure people do not get these diseases for fun.

        1. EJC*

          It’s not really typical for adults to have fevers every month, even those working in public-facing roles. If someone does due to their particular health conditions, they’re not suited to the types of jobs we’re discussing here.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            It wasn’t typical for me to have fevers every month as an adult either, until I had a kid who went to preschool, and the last 8 months have looked VERY different. That said, I FT WFH, and my employer doesn’t require notes, but I sure as hell have seen a doctor a lot because I was thinking “WTF something is not right” and she was like “but kid is in preschool, yeah? sorry, totes normal”. Nothing to do with my particular health. Just “oh your kid is in preschool? Yeah have fun being sick 7/10 days for the foreseeable future.” If “have a kid between 1 and 4” makes you unsuitable to public facing roles, the systemic problem here is even bigger than I thought.

            1. EJC*

              As the mother of a 5 year old and a 1 year old, and the friend of many of these individuals, it is really not typical to get a fever from your child every month. Think about your teachers in K-12. Probably many of them had young children. Do you remember most of them being out sick every month, or multiple times per month, as the employee in question in this question was? Needing to hire a substitute teacher every month for any teacher would largely be untenable on a long-term basis.

            2. Blue Pen*

              I totally understand this. When I was living in an apartment with my sister, my sister was a paraprofessional in a kindergarten classroom and when I say she was ALWAYS sick, I mean she was *always* sick—and by extension, me for routinely catching the germs she brought home.

    4. Bella Ridley*

      What? For an awful lot of jobs, yes, attendance is so important that employees cannot miss a certain number of days because if they don’t attend the job isn’t getting done. Are there jobs where regular attendance isn’t important? I am having trouble thinking of a job that would operate on a “come in when you feel like” policy.

    5. Nancy*

      Regular attendance is important at all jobs and for many jobs, it’s essential. A service-related industry needs their workers to show up.

    6. Parks edge*

      Please tell me of these magical jobs where attendance doesn’t matter at all, I would love to hear about them. Because that sounds like the flip side of every “my boss or coworker has basically checked out and never shows up/is online anymore and it’s really screwing up everyone else’s job” letters that Alison gets.

      I mean I know I’d love going to the ER (or even just to a scheduled, non-emergency doctor appointment—that I’ve maybe waited months for and had to miss work for—) only to find out that the doctor was like “oh I didn’t feel like coming in today lolz”

      1. RussianInTexas*

        3 strikes in 30 days is minimum of 36 days a year, if we count each strike as one day, which they don’t have to be, for the unscheduled call-outs. This is more than my entire PTO + sick time + paid federal holidays.
        I cannot imagine my employer, white collar, WTF, will have no issues with 3 unscheduled call outs per month.

    7. Web of Pies*

      Yeah, I actually gasped when they wrote “I will take that into consideration to delay a written warning if it seems like circumstances were *really outside of your control*.” (Emphasis added) Like, are there instanced of getting the flu that ARE in people’s control??

      “I really try to treat people like trustworthy adults” Well, you aren’t, and this policy doesn’t.

      Your first statement above reveals you don’t believe people when they call out. Consider that your PTO policy may incentivize people to lie about this, because otherwise they can’t get time off to do any life stuff.

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        “Like, are there instanced of getting the flu that ARE in people’s control??”

        I took it to mean as in you called in sick and you were actually sick, versus people calling in sick when they wanted to attend a concert or other event.

        “Your first statement above reveals you don’t believe people when they call out. Consider that your PTO policy may incentivize people to lie about this, because otherwise they can’t get time off to do any life stuff.”

        Eh maybe not. In my experience in retail/food service you can usually get “unlimited” unpaid time off if requested far enough in advance, before the schedule was created/posted, and/or try to get someone to swap/take your shift if it was already posted.

        I worked retail before and knew coworkers that regularly called out sick when they were not because they wanted to attend a concert, or were hungover (I will admit this maybe arguably sick) from the night before. It was pretty easy to get time off approved, if submitted 2/3 weeks in advance.

      2. Peach Parfaits Pls*

        My guess on the “outside your control” thing is that the flu would be considered outside, but that e.g. an employee with chronic trouble getting a ride to work would not be acceptable, because it’s their responsibility to figure it out reliably. So if the third strike was “my roommate couldn’t drive me that day”, that’s when it would escalate.

    8. Overthinking it*

      ‘the expectation that attendance is so important. . .ridiculous”

      Not it it’s retail! Or patient care! ir food service! In all these cases, non-attendance means a scramble to re-schedule people who were scheduled to be off, a serious morale issue for the rest of the team – and a money issue for the employer, because now they are paying time-and-a-half fir work that wasn’t budgeted that way. Or the team works shorthanded: service suffers, morale suffers, company reputation suffers! Not everyone who reads AAM words in an office, where the work will still be on your desk waiting for you when you get back.

        1. Yawnley*

          Have you ever worked at a restaurant? You can’t be overstaffed because then as a server I make less money (more servers = fewer customers for me = fewer tips). You can’t be understaffed because then as a server I’m not doing well with my customers and likely see less money due to my performance (more customers = my performance slips = fewer tips). So you need to be staffed at just-right levels.

          Therefore, that’s why it’s a big deal when more than, say, 1 person calls out. You can’t plan for that beyond a certain point without having serious financial repercussions on the staff who haven’t called out. So, no, restaurants are not choosing to be understaffed. Good lord.

        2. doreen*

          How much extra staff do you expect employers to have ? Sure, most places would be understaffed if they couldn’t manage with a single absence. But it’s not always a single absence – let’s say three people are doing a particular job. One is on vacation so two are scheduled to work. The workplace can function with only two at work – if one of them calls in sick, there’s nothing to be done about it. You’ll just have to function short-handed. It’s one thing to do that if someone’s sick – it’s another thing if it’s because someone decided last minute not to come to work for some other reason. There’s a lot of talk about illness because the letter mentions a possibly fake doctor’s note but the policy doesn’t only apply to illness- it applies to unscheduled absences.

      1. Parakeet*

        Sincere question: How do these industries manage in countries with much more guaranteed sick leave (or leave in general) than the US? I’ve worked in coverage roles, so I get what you’re saying. But it doesn’t seem to be inherently impossible for these sectors to function in locations where workers have more protection regarding absences.

        1. GythaOgden*

          They’re likely to have the same sort of instance system. I work in healthcare facilities with a lot of maintenance and other service staff and it’s really normal to be limited in how many times you can be off before it gets queried with your line manager or occupational health. (For the latter reason we’re actually mandated to report back why we were off sick. It’s just a list of general categories, but it helps the employer track issues affecting their staff.)

        2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

          I’m in Germany and even here there are limits:
          3 occurrences of illness in a month happening more than once would result in official questions, unless there was an accommodation for disability/chronic illness.

          Parents have additional separate leave @67% pay for sick kids – 20 days per child per parent, 40 days for single parents.

          We had up to 6 weeks paid sick leave for ourselves for each occurrence, but would have to wait a full month before the next 6 weeks is available.
          Longterm sick was paid for 2 years @70% pay, but after that you’d have to return to work or quit.

          The number of occurrences raises more questions than long occurences e.g. I was sick for 6 weeks on 3 occasions during my career, no problem, because this was in different years.

    9. NotAnotherManager!*

      Attendance does matter for some jobs. Want your store/restaurant opened on time? That requires someone to be there. Work in an industry where people are required to have a second onsite for security/audit/regulatory purposes? Also needs someone there. Waited three weeks for a doctor’s appointment and don’t want to be rescheduled day-off after you’ve already taken off of work? That requires coordination of coverage. Someone not showing up also affects others who need to take a break or are waiting for coverage to show up to leave (receptionists, daycare workers, etc.).

      The point of requiring the note, I’d guess, is to make it more difficult for people to call out of a coverage position on an unscheduled basis. It’s setting the expectation that, if you’re not sick enough to pay for a doctor’s visit, you should be at work. I don’t agree with dinging people for being legitimately ill (because the alternative is they show up sick, take longer to recover, and make more of your staff/customers ill), but for places where attendance/coverage are critical, I can see why they’d want to dissuade people from taking unscheduled days off, even if I disagree with the methodology.

    10. Boof*

      I’m really puzzled by this; that’s almost calling in every week, plus the LW makes it clear that they can be more lenient if they want to be. I any employer is justified in asking if someone’s out almost every week what’s up, and what should be done about it if the trend continues.

  9. bamcheeks*

    LW2, I am not clear on whether you’re judging “warmth, excellence of communication, personality” etc on that person GIVING EXAMPLES of how the build rapport, develop relationships, follow-up etc, or just on how they’ve done that with you. If it’s the latter, that’s a data point, but it means you’re potentially missing out on a candidate who can actually do all of that far more effectively once they’re in post but is nervous at interview. “Good at interviewing / doesn’t get nervous” isn’t the competency you want to select for. You want clear, detailed examples of how they have / would manage internal customers / business partner within an organisation. That will provide a much better basis on which to differentiate.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Agreed. I don’t like it when my hiring managers say, ‘That person didn’t “wow” me…’ because that usually means the candidate didn’t have them eating out of their hand. Those hiring managers often ignore the solid experience, career progression, and accomplishments those candidates have in favor of interview poise. They don’t consider that interviews are a very different, challenging kind of communication. Speaking of which, a lot of hiring managers resist coaching on their own interviewing skills – making the candidate feel comfortable, asking behavioral questions and not relying on canned interview answers, and focusing on the candidate’s interviewing style over core job skills.

      Don’t get me wrong, the ability to communicate effectively is a job skill we should all hone. But interviewing is only a specific part of a candidate’s professional capability, and wowing someone in the interview doesn’t mean the candidate will excel at the job. That’s like saying people who make good impressions on a first date are good at relationships.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        yeah, it’s hard to assess during a quick interview whether the candidate is just good at schmoozing and charismatic, or they have the ability forge genuine trust by being, like, trustworthy and competent.

        If the person is male, for example, they may simply exude oodles of confidence, by dint of having been treated like the bees knees all their life.

        Then again, if it’s a woman, she may have trouble establishing rapport with the misogynistic colleagues she’ll have to work with. Which is not fair of course, so it ought to be discounted.

      2. Lola*

        Yeah, not a fan of that language/standard either.

        I know myself well enough to know that I rarely “wow” people on first impression, either personally or professionally. But I also know myself well enough to know that once people get to know me they find out I’m very smart, hardworking, kind, and generous. More than once I know I haven’t been a job’s first or second choice, but have ended up with glowing reviews. I’m a slow-to-warm type for sure.

        On the flip side, I’ve 2 or 3 times in my life been “wowed” by candidates who ended up being disastrous nightmares in their jobs. I still apologize for one in particular to my colleagues.

  10. Adam*

    LW4, there is one commandment in business above all others, and that is “thou shalt make payroll”. Every business person worth anything knows this, every legal code encodes this, there are _Bible verses_ about it. I wouldn’t worry about retaliation, and anyone who even hints that your husband was in the wrong for going to the labor board is someone you’ll want to be wary of in the future.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      +1 million.
      A massive red flag that usually means a business is circling the drain.

      Go to the Labour board and get his full backpay – before the organisation crashes, he is #1000 in the list of creditors and receives nothing.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I was a freelancer owed money when this happened. The employees were owed hundreds of dollars each, the freelancers thousands of dollars each, all assured that as soon as The Thing (outside company paid in full for the work) happened everyone would be paid and it was All. Totally. Normal.

        You will be astonished that the outside company paid in full and the small company immediately declared bankruptcy. That money went somewhere, but not a dime to paying the employees or freelancers.

        OP4, your husband should file a complaint because the odds that he sees a dime of this money decrease every day. He’s already not getting paid!

        1. Archi-detect*

          sounds like the CEO saw the writing on the wall and had a little going away party for themselves. I bet they can justify it in their mind somehow too

    2. Lady Lessa*

      Many years ago, I had a paycheck that was rubber and after that, went to the bank that issued the check, got cash and then went to my bank to deposit it into my checking account.
      A minor pain, but better than not getting paid.

      I soon left them.

      1. KatStat*

        Lady Lessa I had the exact same circumstance years ago and did the same thing. On payday a group of 3 or 4 coworkers and I went to the issuing bank together at lunch to cash the check and then drive to at least two or three other banks to deposit the cash as we all banked at different places. Took our entire lunch break but was worth it to make sure we got paid. And I too didn’t stay much longer after that.

    3. RVA Cat*

      I also have to question why he’s still doing the work? It’s not like he’s getting IOUs from the government that he knows are good. How is this business still operating if they can’t make payroll? He might show up to find the doors locked because they aren’t paying rent either.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        He’s still doing the work because of the hope that it really is a hiccup and there really is a plan and if he keeps on then he will be paid.

        He’s job searching, which is the right move. He isn’t reporting it to the labor board, which is the wrong move, but a dysfunctional organization can warp your idea of what’s normal. (As many people have observed “I left because they stopped paying us” is a really obvious answer that people will understand.)

    4. Doc McCracken*

      Yep! I worked for someone who fired me and would not give me my final paycheck. (The reason for me being fired is a whole story in itself!) I tried to be nice and settle it between us, which is my Christian ethic. I had to get my state’s labor board involved. It took months to get my money, but I did. Former employer almost lost his professional license over his shenanigans. Many years later I own my own business. I have never missed paying an employee. It just isn’t an option.

    5. WellRed*

      Also, make sure the company is paying properly on income taxes so you don’t get dinged down the line for that.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        excellent point. If they aren’t paying were they withholding properly before?

        All part of the labor board complaint.

    6. AMH*

      There were frequently times at my old job where payroll was in question — we paid weekly, and my boss would be sweating and calling up tardy customers all day or tapping into his loan. At least once I was asked to hold paychecks till the end of the day so that anyone picking them up would have to deposit after the banks closed.

      I am not there anymore for tons of reasons, but the feeling of standing on quicksand that the payroll stress brought on was definitely part of it.

    7. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, if I stopped getting paid I stop working. There may be certain circumstances where I would be willing to continue for a short time, but only if my manager gave a reasonable explanation and a guarantee that it would be resolved in a specific time frame (and that I would get paid for back time, if course).

      This whole situation is really bad and I’m amazed that multiple people are just going along with it and continuing to work.

  11. tommy*

    LW 1:

    I’m glad Alison said “For what it’s worth, that three-strikes-in-30-days policy is a bad one.” I hope the company rethinks that.

    I also want to comment on the framing/naming of the policy. The concept of “three strikes and you’re out” is that after you do three negative things, there will be consequences. But calling out sick when you are sick isn’t doing something bad; it’s doing something good for the company, good for the employee, good for the co-workers, and good all around.

    I just wonder if this three-strikes frame/name encourages managers at your company to place a vaguely (possibly unintended) negative spin on calling out sick at all, even when dishonesty isn’t suspected.

  12. Healthcare Manager*

    Op 1
    I do not require a doctor’s note or any other type of proof, but if you provide me with one, I will take that into consideration to delay a written warning if it seems like circumstances were really outside of your control.

    I want to point out that not only is it a bad policy, but your process here of subjectively attempting to judge someone’s ‘worthiness’ to get sick leave based on their sick note is also particularly bad.

    Your interpretation of ‘outside their control’ is undoubtably subjective based on your own opinion and is not ‘treating people like adults’.

    This is in no way something you should be judging.

    1. Butterfly Counter*

      This sounds harsh on the OP.

      It sounds like OP isn’t the one setting the policy, but she is the one who has to enforce it. The way she is getting around the policy’s black-and-white 3-strikes and a write-up rule is with a doctor’s note for one of the call-outs. A person with 2 “strikes” for relatively minor issues in the last 3 weeks would likely know that their third call-out in 30 days could mean trouble. Rather than the employee feeling that they have to come in, even if they’re very sick, OP has said that they’ll use a doctor’s note so there won’t be a write up. The OP isn’t judging someone, instead they are not just blindly accepting that an employee who calls out three times in a month is telling the truth. And it sounds like this employee has had numerous write-ups for attendance. This employee may have a chronic issue. But it also could be that the employee just doesn’t take the job seriously.

      It’s not uncommon, especially for younger people who don’t have a ton of responsibilities, for people not to do things they should be doing in lieu of things they’d rather do. I teach university. I do not have mandatory attendance in my classes (save for some important days like exam days). Every day I teach, I’d say I have a maximum of 2/3 of students who are paying to take my class actually show up for it. Some are out for legitimate reasons. Some just don’t want to make the journey into class that day. I have no doubt these same students would treat their employment in a similar way.

      1. Parakeet*

        I missed a lot of classes in college because of undiagnosed (at the time) depression and family problems. I still studied on my own and with my classmates, still did my homework and projects. Not to sound like I’m bragging about the absences, because it wasn’t the best way to handle college and it would have been so much better for me if I’d understood what was going on and gotten help for it. But I wasn’t simply avoiding work. When I had paying jobs (and for that matter, when I was taking lab classes), I showed up unless I had a stronger reason not to, because in those cases being present was the work. I don’t think it’s necessarily true that students who skip lecture classes would skip work.

        I do agree with you that it’s a little harsh on the OP though. I don’t think the OP’s way of handling the policy is great, but it’s an attempt to provide more flexibility regarding a rather harsh policy, rather than less flexibility. That’s at least a laudable intention. And it’s good that they wrote in to ask for advice.

      2. doreen*

        “I have no doubt these same students would treat their employment in a similar way.” You should, because even if you think they just didn’t feel like coming in , you don’t know why. I went to most of my classes in college but not all. I had one class that I attended on the first day of classes, the midterm and the final. Because on the first day, the instructor was basically reading from the textbook. Still got an A – because apparently she didn’t cover anything in class that wasn’t in the book. That was an extreme example, but there were plenty of other courses where I skipped classes for reasons other than being sick – but I wasn’t trying to avoid work. I would have gone if attending the class offered enough benefit to outweigh the downside – for example, I had one term with a class that met Tues, Thurs Fri. It was my only Friday class and attending on Fridays wasn’t valuable enough to be worth a 3 hour round-trip commute for a one hour class. Work is different . I didn’t decide not to go to work at the last minute unless I wasn’t feeling well because in that case, the benefit of taking an unscheduled day off didn’t make up for losing pay/ using a sick day.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          I was very careful to say that some students miss class for legitimate reasons.

          You’re one person and I appreciate you still put in the work. I have hundreds of students a semester. Please appreciate that I do my best to tell the difference between students who are working and those who are not. It’s kind of literally my job.

          1. doreen*

            I’m not sure if you meant to reply to me, or if it was meant for Parakeet – but I really didn’t think “legitimate reasons ” would include not wanting to commute three hours for a one-hour class. I figured that would come under “Some just don’t want to make the journey into class that day. “

  13. Michigander*

    I would think a bad reference or badmouthing his work performance is the kind of retaliation that the husband is worried about. Which is a very valid concern, but after so many months unpaid I think it’s worth the risk, especially if there’s a way to report the company anonymously.

    1. Snow Globe*

      I would assume that the Labor Board doesn’t state who made the report, they just need to investigate. Since many employees are impacted, it could be anyone.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      You can’t report anonymously then they don’t know who needs to get paid. The Labor Board doesn’t go in and review the books.

      Bad reference from a company that doesn’t pay its workers is not something to worry about. Literally all they have to do is show the Labor Board ruled in their favor and they got back pay.

      1. Bast*

        I wouldn’t worry about the bad reference either. I interviewed someone coming from a small law firm where it was a single attorney who would frequently “forget” about things like pay. Otherwise, she liked the attorney and the job, but needed consistent paychecks. I completely understood why she wanted to leave and it was not a strike against her in any way.

  14. Lionheart26*

    OP2, of course I understand and agree with the need to be objective and aware of biases in hiring, but at the end of the day you also want to hire the best person for the job. In my last company, myself and the other 2 senior leaders of our division were all white women. When we wanted to expand the team by creating a new internal position, we were quite worried about our biases when our 2 top candidates were also, you guessed it, white women.
    We did a lot of reflection on our processes, and checked our evaluation criteria. Our interview panel was quite diverse and as a panel we had a lot of discussion where we named the elephant in the room and tried to figure out why we thought these women were the best for the job. In the end, we were all confident that these women WERE the best for the job. They had superior skills and qualifications to the other candidates.

    A few months later, I was leaving and we were hiring my replacement externally, and ended up hiring 2 men: not to be tokenistic, but because in this instance they happened to be the best fit. (yes, they needed to hire 2 people + 1 internal promotion + 1 new administrative staff member to replace me. that’s another letter).

    Diverse teams are not always going to match the ideal representation statistics. I think as long as you are aware of biases and have good hiring practices, you will find the right person for the job.

    1. Awkwardness*

      When OP wrote the candidate “was really excellent in their communication skills during the interview” it can be also read that the candidate was just “clicking” with the interviewer because of similar language or shared opinions as hierarchies being challenging or being a “self-made person”.
      So it’s always useful to question why you liked the person.

    2. JFC*


      A few years ago, we had some people raise concerns that most of our new hires graduated from the major state university, with similar racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. There was a concerted push to look for candidates for entry level roles from smaller colleges and universities, which (in our state at least) tend to draw more diverse students. We hired several within about a year’s time. Many did not make it past their 90-day probationary period. Some made it closer to six to 12 months. All received extensive training and coaching. Yet, it became clear their schools were not adequately preparing them for professional roles. Their education was sorely lacking and they came in unfamiliar with even the most basic concepts in our industry. We’ve never had that problem with our state university graduates. True, not all of them have worked out either, but the success rate is significantly higher. Ultimately, we have to do right by both our company and these graduates by putting everyone in the best possible spot to succeed.

    3. Artemesia*

      And yet, the characteristics that show up in the interview usually show up on the job in my experience. We hired a guy who talked too much in the interview; he had the credentials we needed in a difficult to hire for role. He was pretty insufferable there after , never shutting up. We had one woman who was a bit abrasive during the interviews; she caused us a lot of problems with other departments by being such a jerk. (and no, the same behavior would have been just as disruptive in a man as in this woman) Everything I was concerned about in the hiring process eventually became a concern on the job.

      One way to combat bias is to make sure diverse people in the organization have a chance to meet the top 3 candidates.

  15. Nodramalama*

    I’m so confused by this three strikes policy. So if you happen to have bad luck in a month but you have documentation for each time you’re sick or otherwise unable to come into work… You still risk being fired and it’s just up to the manager to take your documentation into account?

    What if you have a chronic or ongoing illness…

    1. bamcheeks*

      Having chronic or ongoing illnesses very often *is* incompatible with working. This is the problem with having an economic system that sees work as the only way to get income!

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      It doesn’t sound like you risk being fired if it only happens in one month. It sounds like if you have bad luck in a month, you get a written warning, but there is no further consequences unless that happens in a number of months. It sounds like the written warning is more of a way of recording it to see if there is a pattern and if somebody calls out more than three times in a 30 day period maybe 4 or 5 times in a 12 or 24 month pattern, then there is a risk of being fired.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        I interpreted it as each sick occurrence is a strike, and you get fired after three in a month, but it resets every month. Framing illness as a failing rather than “maybe a strict coverage-based job isn’t right for you” is what really bothers me about this. Having a chronic illness that is usually managed but can flare up, or a couple of little kids, doesn’t make someone lazy or unreliable! They just maybe aren’t the best fit for “you need to be here every day or we can’t open the doors.”

        1. Colette*

          If you’re calling out of work more than three times a month, you are unreliable. It may be for reasons out of your control, but the business literally cannot rely on you.

          1. EJC*

            Yes, this. I wish there were more jobs that had flexibility, WFH accommodations, etc. But there are some jobs that just can’t have that, and that’s ok too. Not every job is right for every person’s circumstances.

          2. Vanamonde von Mekkhan*

            A business simply cannot rely on all of its employees being present all the time. That doesn’t make the employees “unreliable”. And just because an employee has a perfect attendance record in the past doesn’t mean they will be there tomorrow. This even includes the owner!

            If they do rely on that they are deluding themselves into a false security. A business needs to make sure that they are able to operate when one or more employees are unable to come to work. Unless they are ok with not operating when employees are sick or otherwise not available. It is not the responsibility of the employees to ensure the business can operate when they are out sick.

          3. Eldritch Office Worker*

            There’s a difference between ‘calling out more than three times a month’, pattern, and ‘calling out more than three times IN A month’, bad streak of luck. Businesses still employ humans, to date.

            1. Colette*

              And in the OP’s case, if you call out 3 times in one month, you get written up once, and then nothing further happens.

              But in the case the OP is describing, this is not the first time this has been an issue for this employee (this employee’s most recent attendance infraction was going to result in yet another written warning, quite possibly the last one before termination.).

              I’ve been in the workforce for a long time, and I don’t think I’ve ever had 3 separate instances of calling out within a month. I’ve certainly been sick/unable to work more than 3 days in a month, but that’s not what the OP’s company measures. I’m sure there are cases where it happens, but I suspect it’s pretty rare.

          4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            Yeah, it might not matter during some periods in some positions, especially if there’s no public facing stuff, but at a short-staffed restaurant, it’s gonna make life for the other staff pretty hard.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I don’t see the sense in limiting it to such a small window of time. For example, people are so much more likely to get ill, or have ill children in the dead of winter or at the start of the school year. You could have a staff member sick every month who would never get pulled up by this policy, and someone who has their family hit by a variety of bugs over a few weeks who would be getting unfairly scrutinised. I get that the policy is being followed with understanding and lenience – but it is phrased in such a way that it will just make people come in whilst ill.

    4. Parenthesis Guy*

      It sounds to me like you can be sick a few times in a thirty day period without needing a doctors note. If you end up having bad luck, you can avoid getting in trouble by bringing in a doctors note. Many people only have 15 days of leave, so if you have three sicknesses in thirty days, that’s likely going to cost you half your leave for the year. It’s a lot of time to miss.

  16. Juniper*

    I’m slightly appalled at the notion of calling in sick being referred to as a “strike.” Agree with Alison OP that your policy is a bad one. It doesn’t actually treat adults like adults, and the incredible rigidity of the policy makes it anything but generous in its application. I can think of dozens of instances where an impartial enforcement would unecessarily and unfairly penalize employees who had legitimate reasons to be away from work.

  17. Varthema*

    LW1, I also worked in retail so I get where you’re coming from, especially around the headache and disruption that call-outs cause. I actually think that the wording of the policy (“strikes” and “discipline”) is a huge part of why it’s problematic.

    Basically, the wording sounds like high school. If I wake up vomiting, if I come down with the flu or COVID, and I call you as soon as I know to let you know that I cannot, physically or ethically, come into work – that shouldn’t be a strike! No-call no-show is a real issue, but calling out is the right thing to do, and framing it in that punitive language is infantilizing and what’s getting everyone’s back up.*

    What about:
    “Showing up to work on time and for every shift is a vital component of this job – the work isn’t manageable when we’re short-staffed and giving people enough hours relies on our being able to count on them being there. Obviously if you’re prohibitively sick or have an emergency, you should call out – we don’t want people infecting other people or customers or putting their own health at risk. However, for the sake of coverage we do have to monitor absences, and if we begin to notice a pattern that someone is routinely calling out three or more instances per month for multiple months, we will have to evaluate terminating employment (or reducing the role to part-time or coverage-only or whatever). Obviously we deal with this on a case-by-case basis, and if someone who’s normally a stellar employee and really reliable has a bad few months, we take that into consideration. But constant absenteeism has such a negative impact on the team that it’s definitely something we have to deal with proactively when it arises.

    It’s the exact same policy, and it’s very lengthy (would have to be trimmed for a handbook), but I think it would get a lot more traction because it speaks to the employee like they’re an adult and not a child – and IMO if you treat employees like high-schoolers they’re going to act like high-schoolers, including trying to find sneaky ways around rules.

    *I realize that this is just the wording that gets used all the time in retail and hospitality, so it’s not your fault, BUT even if you don’t have power to try to nudge the powers that be into changing the wording, it might help with the way you frame it to your employees.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, I think this is a problem with not clearly separating two ideas/problems

      1. people calling out sick when they’re not really sick,
      2. people who are legitimately sick so frequently that they cause a problem for the business.

      The second is a real thing, and it sucks all around but especially for people who have chronic illnesses or who care for people who the chronic illnesses. It is legitimately a gigantic hole in our whole social structure that you can be too ill to work but still need money to live! And whilst some larger employers or specific types of work can support employees in that situation with flexible work or substantial sick leave, smaller employers and coverage-based businesses frequently can’t,

      LW, you need to separate out very clearly the ideas of “using sick leave illegitimately” and “using so much sick leave I can’t rely on you to do the job”. IMO, it gets easier to sort out the latter problem if you assume all the leave IS legit, because it becomes a simpler problem of numbers and “you have missed X days, we just aren’t staffed to cope with this much absence” rather than trying to prove or work out if the leave was legitimate, which is considerably more subjective. And it’s not a question of punishing someone for taking too much legitimate sick leave, but just looking at whether your business needs and the staff member’s availability are compatible.

      Does this 100% suck for people with chronic illnesses or poor immune systems who are judged “able to work” by government systems but who aren’t reliably well enough to hold down a job? YES, ABSOLUTELY, THIS IS A MASSIVE PROBLEM. But it’s not one that LW can solve. And IMO having an unexamined assumption that if someone will only breach the “too much absence” policy if they have illegitimate or fraudulent sick leave, and that you have to honour it if it is “legit” sick leave, is part of the stigma that people with chronic illnesses deal with.

      1. Colette*

        But in this case, the bigger issue is not the abscence policy (which the OP probably doesn’t control), it’s that she believes that the employee forged a doctor’s note.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, there are a lot of interesting discussions happening in the comments and I think especially something like bamcheeks’s third paragraph (“you need to separate out…”) could be really worthwhile for OP to read in general (although she already seems very reasonable, realistic, and like she has her employees’ backs) but also… it’s not really what the OP wrote in about.

          The letter’s whole first paragraph is just background information so that we (and Alison first and foremost!) can understand in a more nuanced way what the current potential-forgery situation is all about, not a starting point for a debate which in the end still doesn’t help OP figure out what on earth to do about this possibly-fake doctor’s note.

        2. bamcheeks*

          It’s is now, but the only reason LW asked for it is because they’re not clear on the difference between “too many absences” vs “illegitimate absences”:

          if you provide me with one, I will take that into consideration to delay a written warning if it seems like circumstances were really outside of your control

          This is exactly the kind of problem that muddying the two creates, because now LW has a “trying to prove/disprove the validity of a doctors’ note” problem, which is near impossible, rather than a “how do I make sure I have adequate coverage for the team” problem!

        3. High Score!*

          Employee likely felt forced to forge the doctor’s note to keep her job. Since she is close to being fired for not staying healthy enough, she had nothing to lose.

          1. EJC*

            We don’t know that it’s that she wasn’t “healthy enough.” She may just be wanting to take time off for whatever reason. I have seen this countless times where people call out sick then I see them posting on Instagram from the beach.

          2. Colette*

            It’s still fraud.

            Maybe she’s dealing with a lot of health issues. Maybe she’s calling out because she’s hungover (which is in itself a health issue, if it’s affecting work/life). Maybe she’s staying up all night playing video games and calling in because she’s tired. Maybe she just doesn’t want to come in. Maybe she has a treatable illness but doesn’t want to take the meds.

            Some of those are in her control, some of them aren’t. But none of them justify forging a doctor’s note.

    2. jasmine*

      Yes, I think this is it. Calling out more than three times a month regularly might be a problem with the specific job, but the way it’s worded makes it sound like the employer is monitoring an employee’s sickness and having this happen for even one month is going to put you in a bad light.

      Highlighting the important of attendance with regards to the needs of the job comes across differently than highlighting attendance as some sort of moral success or a reflection of work ethic.

      LW is scrutinizing whether their employees are taking time off for “legitimate” reasons. You should be able to trust your employees. Now, if your employees are out so often that it’s negatively affecting the work that needs to be done, that’s a separate problem.

    3. kiki*

      Yeah, I understand why businesses come up with policies like this– they want to set a baseline for expected attendance that’s clear. But by calling things strikes or demerits or black marks, it instead it fosters fear that employees will get fired if they have a really bad month for illnesses and emergencies.

  18. r.*


    Three strikes in a 30-day period for unexcused absences would indeed be very generous. Likewise, falsifing a doctor’s note would be a much more serious — potentially “immediate dismissal” serious — than calling in blue. Depending on your local laws it may also count as document forgery and hence attract criminal charges.

    But issuing a strike to someone who not only was a) genuinely sick instead of putting in a Blue Day, and b) has a valid doctor’s note to prove it is bananapants. It treats people who are genuinely ill the same as people who just don’t feel like it.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      What makes you think the “strikes” are only if they weren’t actually sick? It’s clear people are interpreting the policy in a lot of ways and I think that’s coloring our responses. (I thought that a doctor’s note could reduce the severity – a writeup rather than firing – but not that it would mean being sick wasn’t a strike.)

      Regardless, of course, forgery is 1000% not okay.

      1. r.*

        Frankly the notion that is appropriate to discipline someone who’s been genuinely ill and has a genuine doctor’s note to prove it is already bananapants in itself; reducing it from a firing to a write-up doesn’t really help the case.

        A doctor’s note is a document signed by a credentialized and licensed professional; depending on your local laws it may also be protected against abuse by forging medical documents a more serious violation than “plain” forgery.

        In any case a doctor who’d be discovered to provide doctor’s notes as favor to friends or against payment, instead of medical necessity, would risk their medical credentials to be revoked.

        Hence in my eyes discipline in the presence of such a (of course assuming it is genuine) note simply is inappropriate, because I, as a manager and most definitely not a medical professional, am not competent to render, and hence second-guess (except if I am the patient ;)) medical judgement.

    2. Parenthesis Guy*

      I mean, a strike in and of itself seems to be meaningless. If you get three, then you’re in trouble. If you get one, it seems like it’s forgotten about after thirty days. It’s only an issue if you’re going to be written up, and it seems like bringing in doctors notes can help avoid that fate.

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      Are you the arbiter of “genuinely sick” vs “just don’t feel like it”? Policing such things is a very dehumanizing game to play. Dividing illnesses into an “actually sick” bucket and a “Blue Day” bucket is the &%**$# reason for doctor’s notes in the first place. The mentality that people are slackers unless they can demonstrate to your standards that they’re really sick is a really lousy mentality to subject other people to.

      1. Artemesia*

        And how would you deal with slackers in an environment where coverage is essential. There are lousy employees, slackers, people who just don’t show up if they don’t feel like it today. It is very hard to run a business requiring coverage like retail or food service with people like this. What is your solution to managing in this situation?

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          How do I handle it? I build sensible workflows that allow people to be sick without the whole thing grinding to a halt. Where a person being out sick doesn’t, I cover their work while they’re out. I treat people as adults and don’t question sick time.

          As always, the real enemy is capitalism. If a system shuts down due to a worker taking a sick day; the problem lies with the system and not with whether the worker was policed heavily enough.

          1. KTC*

            How do you suggest that works in a restaurant? Understaffing due to continued/multiple call offs hurts the customer experience and leads to a decline in business. Overstaffing leads to last minute staffing cuts and/or too few tables to make enough tips to make the day worth it, leading to high performers going to other restaurants.

            It’s not about “a” sick day, it’s about multiple in a short amount of time. Holding people accountable is not always a tool of the man.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              Why should a restaurant be different from any other business and a server different from any other employee?

              But also, holding people accountable starts with assuming good will and working collaboratively. IMO, policing the use of sick days and requiring doctors’ notes is a dozen steps down the line. And in my book, it’s well past the “should have fired them already” line.

              If your business strategy involves treating essential people poorly, it is probably a lousy business strategy, even if some claim it is an industry norm.

            2. Starbuck*

              “too few tables to make enough tips to make the day worth it,”

              Yeah obviously if we’re implementing a sensible sick policy, we’re also abolishing the tipped minimum wage, like most places with sensible worker protections have already done.

      2. r.*

        No, I am not the arbiter of such things. Don’t be silly. I defer to the judgement of medical professionals. If a licensed and credentialized doctor says you were not fit to work then that is all I need to know.

        We usually allow new employees to self-certify for the first two days, only requiring a doctor’s note for third consecutive work day, because we do like to try and treat people like adults.

        Besides, having everyone always bring a note even for one-day illnesses will end up with some people dragging themselves half-sick instead of going to the doctor, and then spreading whatever made them sick to their co-workers.

        Only when there’s a repeated, sustained and unexplained pattern of many 1-2 day absences do we move people to where we require a doctor’s note on the second or first day of illness.

        In return you get 8 weeks of sick pay (if your contract is for 5 days/week this works out to 40 days, for 6 days/week to 48 days) per year, and those are not shared/separate from vacation days.

        1. jasmine*

          Except doctor visits are not free in the US, nor does everyone even have access to a good doctor. I’ve personally seen a doctor be reluctant to sign a note for sick person because she felt they were out too many days, even though the sick person wasn’t in a condition to go back to school. I’ve no doubt there are doctors who outright refuse to sign notes if they don’t think you’re “sick enough”. Not to mention when it’s an issue of mental health and not physical, and how hard it can be to get to the doctors if you’re *really* sick.

          Given how healthcare works in this country, requiring doctor notes is just bad practice. It says that you don’t trust your employees. Now if someone has a pattern of taking lots of time off, sure. Maybe have a talk with them, address it, it may or may not make sense to require them to bring in doctors notes in certain situations.

          But as a blanket policy? Three days isn’t a long time to be out with covid.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            I agree, and I would like to add that people suffering from some types of mental health disorders might not want a formal diagnosis or things put in writing for several different valid reasons.

        2. Trout 'Waver*

          How about instead of breaking sick days down into “actually sick” and “not actually sick”, just treat them all the same and work with your employees to find solutions when it impacts work getting done?

        3. InsanePolicies*

          The last time I needed to supply a doctor’s note for something it took me 10 weeks to get it because doctors here generally won’t write notes without an appointment and that was the next available (I have some doctors who book many, many months out). Requiring a note for any three day illness is bananapants and would not be possible for anyone I know – most urgent care or ERs wouldn’t give one except for a very limited set of circumstances so you couldn’t even take that very expensive step.

  19. Not a Lawyer*

    LW5, another important exception to being able to deny severance for employees not returning to the office is if any employees are remote as an ADA disability accommodation; denying severance that would otherwise be available based on having an accommodation for a disability would almost certainly qualify as illegal retaliation.

  20. vito*

    #1 (fake doctor note).
    Over the years I thought about getting a “fake” doctor’s note several times. I have a cousin (and his wife) and a old friend (and his wife) that are doctors.
    Major problem is that three of them are pediatricians and one is a radiologist.

    and they all live more than 1000 miles away.

    AND, although many people keep calling me childish, Nobody believes that I go to a pediatrician.

    1. r.*

      They’d most likely also face professional censure, potentially up to losing their medical license, if it was found out and proven that they offered fake notes.

      Asking a friend or family to put their income on the line like that is a shitty thing to do.

      1. Archi-detect*

        yeah especially when getting seen by urgent care isn’t that expensive in the scheme of things (or failing that a free clinic). Also don’t underestimate the value in actually getting checked- last time I went I thought I had a cold/flu and an ear infection, they diagnosed me with that (she said my ear looked angry lol) and also pneumonia.

  21. Shopgirl*

    After not being paid for 3 months at a start-up my husband was told he wasn’t being a team player after he insisted he really needed a check or two. They were shocked when he found a new job. He wasn’t a founding member and didn’t agree to work without pay.

    He settled out of court eventually.

    1. Pickwick*

      I hope he got everything he was entitled to, plus some extra for having to go through that nonsense!

    2. Angstrom*

      I worked for a start-up that handled their cash flow issues as well as they could. They’d ask for volunteers (“Who can afford to not get paid for a week or two?”), were completely open about the finances, and everyone was paid in full as soon as money came in.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Pretty sure that was illegal. Unless the people who volunteered did no work for the time, including answering questions about where the MacGuffin is filed.

        1. yeep*

          I think Angstrom meant that they asked for volunteers to take a delayed paycheck, not work for free.

          1. Angstrom*

            Correct. The ask was volunteers for a delayed paycheck to help with short-term cash flow. Everyone was paid in full when money came in.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I am pretty certain that if in the US, that was illegal.

            Unless it was framed as a furlough, in which case the worker cannot do any work whatsoever for the company during the furloughed time. “Working for a delayed paycheck, if the funding works out this time” is not a legal thing. Even if you feel super duper confident that the funding will work out and nothing else will go wrong.

            With government furloughs, it’s usually the case that they are furloughed without pay (and so cannot do any work) and then after a few days or weeks of grandstanding their back pay is given. But they don’t work for free during that time and hope that it will work out like it always has in the past.

      2. Shopgirl*

        He was pretty chill about it for a long time but not after that statement. We understand things happen and tech startups can be hard but not with that attitude.

    3. ecnaseener*

      Gotta love that. “Real team players work for free! What’s that — you don’t want to be on the team anymore?! How could this happen???”

    4. kiki*

      So many start-up founders/leaders have such a fascinating disconnect with why people work. Most people need money and benefits (healthcare, etc.) on a regular basis.

      I don’t know if the disconnect stems from the single-minded focus a lot of founders have– they are in it for the mission and nothing else. Or if start-up founders are often privileged and are more likely to not to need a regular paycheck/ healthcare because of existing wealth, additional revenue streams, etc.

    5. Starbuck*

      Just so wild that an employee having thousands of dollars missing from their paychecks is no big deal criminally, but if I go into the cash box at my work place and take thousands of dollars, I’m arrested immediately. It’s no wonder wage theft is a bigger dollar value (by a lot) than burglaries/robberies, etc.

  22. pcake*

    LW4, document your communication with your manager, HR, anyone you talk to about not being paid. If you have emails already, all the better.

    I do know someone in the same situation who, when a potential new employer called the company he still worked for who wasn’t paying him, told the potential employer what he said wasn’t true and they lied about his work. He was able to show them that he had complimentary emails on his work from his boss and screencapped the payroll software showing he hadn’t been paid, and he did get the new job, but without that documentation, he probably wouldn’t have been hired.

  23. Alice*

    I have stopped shopping at my favorite bookstore and picking up takeout from several restaurants I liked because of sick employees (and, in the bookstore, inadequate ventilation). Alison is right that customers who have options don’t want sick staff. Please give people PTO and allow them to use it.

    1. Cinnamon Stick*

      and allow them to use it.

      This is important as well and it doesn’t just apply to service industry jobs. I’ve seen folks in the comments section mention they get dinged for using their PTO/sick time, and I think we’ve all heard about “unlimited PTO” being a joke in some places because they never let you take it.

  24. Pickwick*

    My first job was in the service industry, and LW1’s policy is much better than the one my company had, which, in turn, was slightly more lenient than the policies at some other retailers in the area. We had no paid sick leave, were penalized for calling in, and were strongly discouraged from taking unpaid leave. On top of that, managers explicitly encouraged me and others to come in on days when we were obviously and contagiously unwell. This was long prior to COVID, so, no masks, no gloves. (How was it more lenient? Well, the policy was punitive, but managers would frequently sign their names to waive penalties for good employees.)

    The staffing model requires it. Margins at the store-level are tight, and they really were pushing downward on all cost levers, not just labor. Somehow, though, there was enough money left over to make the company owners into billionaires and the executive suite into multimillionaires; go figure.

  25. Katie*

    For what it’s worth my kids see many different doctors. The notes they provide vary in looking authentic. One basically gave me a post it note (their computers were down). Most do not have letterhead and they don’t put signatures on the paper.

    Heck one didn’t even put my kids name (the school took it knowing the wrong name was there!!).

  26. WellRed*

    I think it’s wrong to give people a “strike” for getting sick. People get sick, let’s not punish them for being human. Especially in the low paid service industry.

    1. Managing While Female*

      I had the same thought. It would stress me the f out to have every instance that I’m sick be called a “strike”.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        This is something that I really wish policy writers understood (which I say as a policy writer) – the language you use can really fuck with people.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          At the same time (and I agree word choice matters): If a code term is used for the unpleasant thing, then it takes on the bad connotations of the unpleasant thing.

          Like the teacher who knew students hated seeing a bunch of red marks, and so marked up papers in green. Students soon felt just as bad about green marks as red marks.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            That’s absolutely true, but I think this is more a case of the chosen word making the thing more unpleasant than it needs to be

    2. lilsheba*

      It sucks, and every single call center operates this way. You get treated like you are a child and it is dehumanizing. And nope you are not getting a dedicated employee by treating them like that!

    3. Ginger Cat Lady*

      EXACTLY. People get sick. If the company is staffed so thinly that they “have” to give a disciplinary strike to people for getting sick, that company is doing it wrong. Having things covered is vitally important. Not “attendance”. Blaming and disciplining employees for getting sick is a choice the company has made, not a requirement of the industry.
      I don’t care how lenient the OP seems to think it is, giving people a disciplinary strike for not being invincible humans and having the gall to get sick is wrong.
      Employees are human, not robots. Companies need to be able to handle humans having sick time, and their failure to plan shouldn’t be seen as an employee issue.
      If she faked a doctor’s note, it’s because the system is oppressive.

      1. Hotel lady*

        As a manager in a field where coverage matters (hotel), this just seems way too black and white. Yes, we can plan for a certain amount of call-offs, yes, we can have a plan in place for how to cover shifts when employees are sick. But there are also relatively common instances of certain employees having truly terrible attendance. When it gets to the point where Jenny is known to be the person who always gets away with calling in sick, you’ve got a major morale problem. It seems to me that I have two choices – either trust that Jenny isn’t lying and is actually sick all of those times, and have her attendance impact both the business and the other staff members, or come up with some way to treat all employees to the same standard, which means tracking call-offs and accounting for them in some manner, fairly across employees. I don’t think it is as simple as “let all of your employees take as much time off as they want, otherwise the system is oppressive.”

  27. Skippy*

    For LW2: this is why I think it’s important to have multiple people involved in a hiring process. It can be so easy to be blinded by our own biases that getting other perspectives is really helpful. I’m leading a hiring process right now, and while I did the initial interview to get a sense of whether or not they had the skills and knowledge to do the job, the second interview is going to be with the rest of my department. I think it also helps the candidate learn more about the organization and whether it’s a place they want to work.

    1. High Score!*

      +1000! Sometimes people just “click”, they come from similar backgrounds and have similar ideas and the conversation just flows. Other times equally intelligent, competent people do not click and even unintentionally rub each other the wrong way due to different backgrounds.

    2. Another Hiring Manager*

      My workplace requires a diverse hiring panel for the first round and it’s important for a few reasons. Everyone has internal biases, whether they are conscious or not. People in the same room (or Zoom) can give each other reality checks when needed.

      It’s also important to show the candidate that the diversity a company states is has exists.

  28. A Book about Metals*

    Unless #1 is in a restaurant or fast food type of job where they’re just burning through entry level workers, the whole policy seems weird. What’s the point of a dr’s note in the first place if it counts just the same against you either way

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      And ironically, those are the kinds of jobs that often don’t provide health insurance. It’s a real catch-22.

    2. HonorBox*

      I read it as the LW saying that with a note they’d be more lenient with taking the next step of a written warning.

      I think 3 instances of calling out over the course of a month, especially when a longer illness counts as one, is pretty fair in a job that probably relies on a fully-staffed schedule and finding coverage last minute isn’t easy. That’s 36 instances over the course of a year, which is a lot. Yes, service industries probably don’t have a ton of paid time, but there are also days off throughout the week, so when someone is appearing to abuse the system, it is worth checking out.

      The LW seems like they’re wiling to work with employees to ensure that if they’re legitimately ill, they’re OK. But the question is really about verifying the veracity of the note. Which I absolutely would do in their shoes.

      1. A Book about Metals*

        It just seems like it’s incentivizing people to come into work while sick so as not to get that strike, which could then get other employees sick and so on..

        1. GythaOgden*

          It’s not though — an instance system with no additional penalties for extra days is going to allow someone a few days to get over a cold without it counting against them. Because if they go in and then have to go home/stay home, the instance clock will reset. The system actively encourages people to take as much time as they need to recover because they can’t afford be indecisive about it.

  29. JTP*

    I don’t understand the concept of “strikes” for absences at all. Except in rare circumstances, the employee didn’t get sick on purpose. They likely couldn’t have avoided it. They are human beings. They are going to get sick. They are going to have other reasons for needing to take the day off work (non-sickness-related doctor visits, family events, mental health day to avoid burn out).

    You employ human beings, not robots.

    1. Jenny*

      I read it as this was the employee’s 4th (or more) instance in that month and therefore was going to get a written warning. If the employee provided the doctor’s note, they’d avoid the written warning. I read the policy as once you have the 3 instances in that month, you start getting a warning. You don’t get fired until maybe the 5th time and it sounds like a doctor’s note will negate the warning/firing.

      Also, if you’ve been sick 3 different times (i.e. at least 3 days), maybe you don’t need a mental health day that month.

      Not especially related to this letter, but I’d be curious how many mental health days (as sick days) people are taking.

      1. JTP*

        “Also, if you’ve been sick 3 different times (i.e. at least 3 days), maybe you don’t need a mental health day that month.”

        That’s …. something. My mental health doesn’t magically get better because the rest of my body isn’t well.

        At my husband’s previous job, they had an incredibly unrealistic workload. His mental health suffered A LOT if he needed to take a sick day, because he knew no coworkers had the capacity to cover his workload, so the unrealistic workload was just sitting there, growing, waiting for him to return. That took a major toll on his mental health.

        1. Jenny*

          I guess. It would be interesting to know how many sick days people are taking in general. Because based on what I read on here and it sounds like people are taking a LOT of sick days. And it is a common occurrence.

          And in your husband’s case—that sucks! That would be awful. But in that case, when he was sick and work was building up and hurting his mental health, taking a mental health day probably doesn’t help, because it then leads up to more work, right?

          Either way, I wish that we all had enough sick time to take as much as we truly needed. And we all could take as many mental health days (as sick days) as we truly needed and want.

          I have a co-worker that has had to miss probably at least 3 weeks over the last 6 months due to a medical issue. I’m thankful that I work at a job and a place that allows her to do that. I haven’t had to miss more than 2 days per year for the last 15 years since I am (or was!) young and don’t have kids. But I’m banking a lot of time because I’m getting older and it is not realistic that I’ll never be sick.

          Maybe the LW’s company’s policy isn’t fair. I just think it probably is pretty close.

        2. Peach Parfaits Pls*

          Pretty sure they’re using the main colloquial definition of mental health day, ie a burnout prevention/just need to get away from it for a day day, not a day to deal with clinical anxiety or whatever.

        3. doreen*

          “My mental health doesn’t magically get better because the rest of my body isn’t well.” No, it doesn’t , but there’s also no reason a “mental health day to avoid burn out” can’t be scheduled in advance and it seems this policy only applies to unscheduled absences. There are other types of mental health days that can’t be scheduled but you don’t go from “everything’s fine” to “need a day off to get away” overnight. Non-sickness related doctor visits and most family events can also be scheduled in advance.

      2. Starbuck*

        “Also, if you’ve been sick 3 different times (i.e. at least 3 days), maybe you don’t need a mental health day that month.”

        Oh yeah, totally, because when I’ve been physically sick more than usual, that’s when my mental health is at its best. Absolutely peaking. The chores and errands I didn’t get done because I was ill? Looking forward to those just brightens my day and puts a spring in my step.

    2. Antilles*

      The concept is that very few people will get sick three separate times in a month. You might also note that it’s not a “three strikes and you’re immediately out” policy; the first time it happens it’s a written warning and then escalating discipline if it keeps happening.

      As for the “other reasons”, those are totally different because they can be planned around in advance. The manager can schedule someone else for that shift, you can coordinate with co-workers to trade shifts, etc. But a sick day is a short-notice situation (often the same day), so everybody is left scrambling and commonly the result is that the restaurant is just short-handed.

      1. JTP*

        “…the first time it happens it’s a written warning and then escalating discipline if it keeps happening.”

        That’s … not any better. These are human beings, not robots. They get sick, and they can’t control when they get sick so as not to inconvenience the business.

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        The phrasing tripped me up and probably did for a lot of people – “three strikes” almost universally is followed by “and you’re out” so the fact that in this case it seems to mean “three strikes and you get a warning” didn’t register.

  30. Charley*

    L4: If someone stopped you and your husband on the street and robbed you of thousands of dollars, I’m guessing you would report that to the authorities. What your husband’s employers are doing to him is unequivocally theft, and, while your concerns are valid, I’d encourage you to see it in that light.

    1. Charley*

      I would also encourage you to see if there are any labor law clinics/legal aid offices in your area. Often associated with law schools, but sometimes with professional associations or non-profits, talking with a lawyer, even if you don’t end up engaging one, can help you get information about the kind of documentation you need, etc. to protect yourself from potential retaliation.

      Example from California: https://legalaidatwork.org/

    2. Maggie*

      They’re not even his employer at this point, they’re just a business he volunteers at

  31. Jenny*

    I sort of disagree about number 1. Honestly (if the 3-strike policy is being applied like the LW stated) it seems like a reasonable policy. The way I read it, no one with legit illnesses are getting fired after 3 strikes in a month. And a strike can be more than 1 day.

    And we can agree all we want that sick days shouldn’t be limited, especially in the service industry. But it’s also hard to run a restaurant, hospital, etc on very limited staff. It’s a really tough thing to figure out for management.

    There’s no easy solution.

    1. JTP*

      There are numerous examples of restaurants who are able to attract and retain good employees. The owners just don’t want to implement it — fair wages and paid time off, primarily.

      1. Jenny*

        Again, I agree.

        But in this case, we don’t know if those fair wages and paid time off are unfair or not. Frankly, with the policy as stated, my guess is people are paid pretty well.

        In this case, if each employee takes 3 sick days per month, they are getting 36 days. That’s more than I get per year. And that’s if they only take 1 day off each “instance”. Obviously, you could have a month where you’d have more than 3 instances. So maybe the limit should be per year. But that’s a very generous amount of sick time.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      Yes, but it’s also difficult to make rent when you don’t get paid sick days and you have to go to a doctor and get a doctor’s note and you probably don’t get health insurance because it’s “just a service job”.

      A restaurant near me put up a help-wanted sign during the pandemic. They offered $17-19 an hour plus benefits. The sign was up for a week and hasn’t gone up again. And they never complain that “people don’t want to work any more.”

      It’s basic economics. If you have a shortage of employees, you need to pay them more. If the supply goes down, then of course, you will have to pay more.

      1. Jenny*

        For sure. But, again, I still think the policy is pretty close to being fair. 3 instances in a month is probably missing at least a day for 3 out of the 4 weeks.

        I’m not saying that I know this policy is completely fair. But it seems like a decent try, with quite a bit of flexibility.

    3. PotsPansTeapots*

      Yeah, this policy kinda sucks objectively, but it’s honestly a pretty humane one in the world of retail/service. And OP1 seems like the rare boss in those industries to treat their employees like adults.

  32. urguncle*

    In the span of three weeks in 2022, my dog became deathly ill and required an emergency vet visit. The same day, I miscarried in the last first trimester and required surgery, then our apartment building caught on fire, a hoarder situation was discovered in the building and we were displaced for a month.

  33. BBB*

    any policy that refers to legitimate use of sick time a ‘strike’ is a bad policy

  34. MicroManagered*

    LW1 Does your employer provide insurance that allows people to visit the doctor for free? When I was working jobs with unreasonable attendance policies like this, they also were ALWAYS jobs either without benefits at all, or there was still a copay to see a doctor. Those jobs also tended to be lower-wage, where a $50 copay was a bigger chunk of my pay…

    All that is to say that, for something like a severe cold or stomach bug where I couldn’t work but also did not need medical attention, it was a big burden to need to provide a doctor’s note. Your employer is encouraging people to come to work sick with this policy. And get others sick.

    I thought we all learned this during the pandemic…. *sigh*

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          As something that might counter the inclination to fire this employee for poor attendance. It was supposed to be “If you can show this pattern is due to sincere illness and bad luck, we might hold off on firing you.”

          From the point of view of the person scheduling, calling off for 3 legitimate illnesses and calling off for 3 “today I don’t wanna” reasons looks the same for the impact on the business. Sometimes a role does need coverage, and frequent absences is a problem that means this worker and this job are not going to fit well.

          I suspect something like: Employee knows they are on thin ice, but not that the ice is cracking and they are about to be fired. So claimed this latest missed day was definitely legitimate, they went to urgent care and everything. When the employer suggested that a note to support that might be helpful to continuing their employment–i.e. the ice is cracking beneath you–the employee panicked and faked a note.

        2. Daisy-dog*

          Because the employee volunteered the information that they already went to urgent care.

      1. Antilles*

        Right. The employee themselves said they already went to urgent care before the note was mentioned. This isn’t some thing where the company is forcing people to visit the doctor and pay a co-pay simply because need-a-note, the employee says they already went so OP is like “hey, since you were already there, why not get a note too so we can hold off any problems?”.

        And to me, it appears the reason OP suggested a doctor’s note appears very situation-specific: This employee has a history of poor attendance, has been written up several times for said poor attendance, and was on the verge of getting a last warning. It’s not just some blanket policy, it’s about this particular employee’s history raising eyebrows.

        1. DrNotesAreHard*

          because you typically can’t get a note after the fact. they’d need to make/pay for another visit to get one. assuming the dr even writes them. I’ve had drs refuse to write notes for things they considered silly because then they’d be propping up the stupid system ( their words)

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            That’s not true at all. Every doctor I’ve ever had was able to get me a doctor’s note even I asked for it after the appointment was done.

      2. Person Person*

        OP doesn’t require one, but does say you basically need one if you don’t want to get penalized. I get that the specific individual provided one but the broader policy says to get one or be penalized.

      3. MicroManagered*

        No, it literally doesn’t say that:

        I do not require a doctor’s note or any other type of proof, but if you provide me with one, I will take that into consideration to delay a written warning if it seems like circumstances were really outside of your control.

        The note’s not required, but you’ll consider not writing me up or firing me if I have a note? That means the note is required if I get sick and don’t want to lose my job.

  35. A Book about Metals*

    It’s great to be aware of potential biases in hiring, but from your description this candidate wasn’t just pleasant but “had a nuanced understanding of many of the intricacies of the job, and was really excellent in their communication skills during the interview”

    Also, at this point I don’t know that I’d go about setting up an additional interview just so the candidate can be evaluated by a variety of “different” people .

  36. Antilles*

    #3: I don’t think this job exists. You’ve had four interviews, with six different people, over the course of months, and still have no real view on what the role looks like. And their proposed fifth interview is ALSO with someone who has no clue about the role?

    If the job actually existed, wouldn’t they have had someone directly involved with it be part of those interviews? Or the role exists but the company themselves doesn’t have anybody with a clue what the job entails, which is equally problematic in a different way.

    I suppose there might be some incredibly bureaucratic places where this could make sense (I hear federal hiring can sometimes be like this?), but I assume that you would know if you were in that kind of industry.

    1. Just Thinkin' Here*

      Civil service federal hiring typically is done by panel. For certain entry level jobs that are hiring en mass there can be a whole group of people that get interviewed – typically off-site at regional locations like hotels. Those typically have a screening interview a couple weeks ahead of time, so the whole process may take 4-6 weeks between the first screen and onsite interview.

      For non-entry level roles, once you get to the interview stage, it’s typically one and done. There can be bureaucratic processes to get to the interview stage and then more if they select a candidate who doesn’t pass background checks. Sometimes the panel can go back and offer to another candidate – which could be weeks or a month after the original interview. Sometimes the hiring panel has to start all over again. But the interviews themselves are typically limited and closer together.

      1. Just Thinkin' Here*

        Forgot to add, this is US civil service. I have no idea of the process in other countries.

    2. BestBet*

      Federal hiring (and other government hiring) can certainly be like this, but they are also very clear about salary ranges in their job postings (feds for sure, state and local mostly too).

  37. HonorBox*

    OP4 – Your husband should file a claim. Missing that many paychecks is a serious thing and if his present employer is having a cashflow issue, that’s something that should be communicated with employees, with a specific plan for how things are going to be taken care of. The only bad look should he file a complaint/claim is going to fall on his present employer. They’re clearly not in good shape, and people may see that and read into it, but that’s not his worry. And it is worth finding a way out, too.

    1. Artemesia*

      And sometimes being the first person at the trough when this is happening means you end up being the only one who gets paid when the place goes under.

  38. Lily Rowan*

    #2 – wow, I really appreciate the delineation on “good personality”! I have struggled with this, too — do I just like the person because they are like me? how well am I considering people with other equally effective styles? So having the framework for how to dig into that further is really helpful.

  39. Stuart Foote*

    I feel like the response to LW#4 is a little optimistic…I know people who would absolutely, 100% side with the employer in almost any scenario, no matter how unjustified, and unfortunately they tend to occupy positions of power. Remember how recently a CEO told the story of how a remote worker had to give up her dog after being suddenly told she must make a 100 mile round trip commute (after being hired remote) as an inspirational tale of someone willing to go 110%. In this scenario, someone unhappy he wasn’t being paid would be a complainer not willing to understand what it takes to build a business. Sometimes the more justified the complaint, the harder people will punish the one who “breaks the code.”

    That being said, I’m not sure what the LW wanted for advice if her husband isn’t willing to push any harder to get paid and was already job searching.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      In a world of 7 billion people you can find someone who can claim anything.

      But “because I’m supposed to work for pay, and they haven’t been able to make payroll in 3 months” is a reason where 99.9% of people side with the employee. Whether that’s “your company is terrible” or “only suckers work for free.” Outside of addressing a very small inner circle of people who have to drink the kool aid or admit they’ve been wrong, employers aren’t trying to make the case that people should work for them even if they can’t make payroll. You can’t go to the golf club and claim that and look like anything other than a loser who can’t make payroll.

    2. metadata minion*

      I realize that sometimes you just have to take whatever is available, but if you have any choice at all, do you really want to work for someone who doesn’t accept “they didn’t pay me” as a reason to leave a job?

      1. Charley*

        I feel like the ‘give up your dog’ example, while awful, is actually very different because it is awful, but not clearly illegal, which wage theft 100% is. I’m not saying no one would ever claim it’s okay, but if they did so they would effectively be saying they support violating labor law, which wouldn’t be a great look for them as an employer.

      2. Stuart Foote*

        If I was the LW’s husband I would be looking for a new industry personally. It sounds awful. But I do think it’s very likely reporting this company to the labor board would count as a black mark against him within this industry.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Reporting is anonymous.

          Let’s say he announces it was him who called it in. The number of industries in which “employees got frustrated when the company couldn’t make payroll for three months” is some sort of black mark is going to be vanishingly small. One person at the top might be fulminating about the lack of loyalty and not be a good reference going forward–but outside people can see that the person at the top was crafting a golden parachute for one out of the employees’ unpaid salaries.

          One person at the top fulminating about the lack of loyalty can happen for all sorts of reasons, including reasons that exist only in their head.

    3. JustaTech*

      You’re right that there are people like that in the world – remember the letter where a boss was upset that her employee was upset that they hadn’t gotten paid two months in a row due to payroll errors?

      But also remember the near-universal response here which was “you must pay employees!” not “oh yeah, it’s totally reasonable to just not pay people if you don’t feel like it, those whiners”.

      So while there is always risk of unreasonable people, it’s not a particularly high risk.

      1. Observer*

        remember the letter where a boss was upset that her employee was upset that they hadn’t gotten paid two months in a row due to payroll errors?

        But also remember the near-universal response here which was “you must pay employees!”

        Exactly! And also, that LW’s *own company* disagreed with her! They told her flat out that this should never have happened, and that they *had* to do everything they could to make the employee whole.

    4. Observer*

      I know people who would absolutely, 100% side with the employer in almost any scenario, no matter how unjustified, and unfortunately they tend to occupy positions of power.

      That’s not a person they should be working for anyway. And no matter WHAT the LW’s husband does in this kind of situation, it would be the “wrong” thing for such a person.

      In any case, as a practical matter you simply cannot live your life to appease unreasonable people who are also out of the norm. Even most bad employers understand that people will push to get paid their expected salary.

  40. theletter*

    #3 – the ball’s in their court to get back to you now on your request – time to focus on other opportunities.

    1. Just Thinkin' Here*

      I really hope OP #3 hasn’t paused their search while dealing with these people.. otherwise it’s what? Almost 24 weeks down the drain?

      1. OP #3*

        OP here – thank you so much for your concern! I certainly have not paused my search for this “opportunity” and have been actively pursuing others. Unfortunately I work in a bit of a niche field so it’s taking longer than I’d like to find a suitable alternative!

        1. Just Thinkin' Here*

          Phew! Good to hear that. I get the niche field issue – some fields have more flexibility in moving to adjacent fields – others not so much. Especially if licenses or certifications are involved. Good luck!

        2. Blackbeard*

          I think the recruiter is taking you for a ride. Waste no more time with them.

          This is just me, but if a recruiter doesn’t tell me the salary range in the first 5 minutes of their first introductory phone call, I’m not interested in the job offer.

  41. Melissa*

    Everybody in the comments is insisting that everyone should just only come to work when they feel like it! I’m a nurse. We do actually need to come to work, almost every day. If we are sick, we can call out. But truly, the hospital can’t have a policy of “Just come in when you can, don’t come in if you can’t, no limitations on how often that happens.” If everyone were a reasonable adult, that would of course be the perfect policy. But the reality is, there is a sub-set of people (the minority of people, but a workplace DOES have to account for them) who will call out twice a week if they can get away with it.

    Some of those people I described are good at their job, when they are present. So you can’t just fire them for poor performance. The attendance IS the poor performance. And it IS a problem that needs to be solved.

    1. JTP*

      I don’t see anybody in the comment section insisting everyone should only come to work when they feel like it. What comment section are you reading?

    2. Lily Potter*

      Thank you Melissa! The response to this question and the comments here on #1 have been driving me nuts. A call-out policy with “strikes” is absolutely reasonable in some industries; OP1 says that theirs is a service industry where daily attendance is critical. Jobs like security guards, bus drivers, restaurant workers – an employer can’t just say “Well, Serafina has a headache today; guess her paperwork will be a day behind”. Nope, the employer has to find someone, likely at the last minute, to cover Serafina’s post. Chances are very good that this employer doesn’t have a pool of people sitting around waiting to cover for people who call in sick, so the employer is spending time hustling to find a warm body to cover the post. Yes, people getting sick is a part of life, but there will always be those who get “sick” twice a week and there needs to be an objective manner to evaluate the situation. It shouldn’t be that Freiderich calls in sick all the time but keeps his job because he’s a charming fellow who lies smoothly and is buddy-buddy with the boss while Consuela gets fired for the same number of callouts but can’t lie about just needing a mental health day. It sounds like the OP is being as humane as she can be within the confines of what’s actually a pretty lenient callout policy.

    3. Katie A*

      This comment section does have some of that vibe, and there used to be more of that vibe.

      But this time there at least as many, if not more, people talking about the fact that in some jobs, coverage is important and if you can’t show up consistently and reliably, then you either need to take short term disability or something like that (easier said than done, of course) or find a different job.

      People seem to be recognizing the realities of shift work AND the reality that our systems are not set up to support people who can’t work but need money (AKA anyone who is too sick to come in consistently) and that’s bad.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think this is a good breakdown.

        And like half the people in this subthread, I felt like there were a lot of “How dare you take attendance into account, when we know people are trying their best” like there are no jobs where coverage matters. Just as the individual worker cannot shift societal norms an laws so that people can find jobs that accommodate their limitations, so also the individual manager cannot shift society that way when they need to have 12 nurses in Ward E for the evening shift. (On the employer side of that, it is important to have enough people on duty to cover the occasional callout. But also it’s reasonable to say “On a team of 12, 60% of the callout days are Jo and that’s not sustainable or fair to the others.”)

        If someone is a single point of failure, then it can be a big problem when they are out a lot even with fully genuine medical problems and an office that wants to be accommodating.

        1. Jackalope*

          I would add that as an office worker I have more flexibility than some of the jobs mentioned and if I miss any ONE day it will be fine. But if I call in all the time that will cause more of a burden for my coworkers and isn’t okay for my job either.

    4. londonedit*

      I don’t think anyone is saying that. Perhaps there are some cultural differences – there are people here from all sorts of different countries and industries, and sick leave is handled differently all over the world/in different industries, so some people are coming at it from the point of view of ‘In my experience, X happens’. It’s a data point, not a judgement.

    5. Salty Caramel*

      Everybody in the comments is insisting that everyone should just only come to work when they feel like it!

      Not hardly. I’m seeing a lot of legitimate reasons why someone might be out of the office that would get them strikes as described in the letter.

      And nobody is arguing that there shouldn’t be a policy to deal with malingerers either. It should, however, be reasonable, and take into account things like Covid, which will knock and your entire household on their ass for five days with no warning.

      1. Humble Schoolmarm*

        I think we’re reading it differently. I would interpret being out with covid for 5 days as one incident under OP’s policy, which would be fine. The problem would be if you have Covid, a sick pet and a plumbing emergency in the same 30 days. If all three of those happened and then you got food poisoning, you would need a note to avoid a formal write-up.

    6. Starbuck*

      “If we are sick, we can call out. But truly, the hospital can’t have a policy of … don’t come in if you can’t, ”

      Huh??? Either you can be out when you’re sick, or you can’t. If you give me sick days, don’t punish me for using them when I’m sick!

  42. el l*

    Have you had one of your analysts/SMEs speak with them to evaluate their skills? While we’re hearing a lot about communication, how much of a priority is it to hire the one with the strongest analytical skills?

    I think that’s a necessary check on how much they’re getting by on charm and similarity. Certainly in my industry, you’re always having to check for persuasive-sounding people who don’t have either the industry or analytical experience required.

  43. CommanderBanana*

    Our attendance policy is a three-strikes-in-30-days policy, in which you get a written warning after three instances and then escalating disciplinary warnings for subsequent infractions.

    Ok, so, just so I’m understanding this, any time an employee misses work, they get written up. So if you’re sick, you get written up.

    I think you need to just sit for a while and really think about your attendance policy. Because that is a crap policy.

    1. Bella Ridley*

      But….you don’t get written up just for being sick? If you miss work three times in a month you get written up. Three unexpected absences in a month, in a coverage-based job, is a lot.

      Most managers don’t create these policies, either.

    2. Jenny*

      That’s not AT ALL my understanding of the policy.

      It clearly states that you get 3 instances in a month. If you go over those 3 instances you get written up. And you probably won’t get written up if you have a doctor’s note for the 4th time.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Go back and reread it. The LW said that any time you miss work, you get written up. For any reason. Including being sick.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          You need to reread it. The part you quoted literally states “in which you get a written warning after three instances”.

        2. Myrin*

          She does not, and it’s in the literal quote you yourself used. The salient point is this: a policy “in which you get a written warning after three instances.
          The written warning appears after you have “accumulated”, for lack of a better word, three instances, and OP even defines what an “instance” is – “each illness”.
          In OP’s letter, an “instance” is not the same as “being written up” (although I assume the “instance” gets recorded in writing somewhere).
          Only after you’ve been out sick three times in a span of 30 days do you reach the “written warning” stage.

    3. HannahS*

      No, you haven’t understood it. If they miss work three separate times, where consecutive days are counted as a single absence, they get written up. You can disagree with it, but it probably wasn’t the manager’s idea, and willfully misunderstanding it as “every time you get sick you get written up” isn’t fair to OP.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      You quoted a single sentence and don’t seem to at all understand that sentence.

      Call out with no notice (i.e. sick) once in January, twice in February, not in March, then twice in April: Nothing happens.

      Call out three separate times in January: Written up, in the sense of documenting this so if it is a pattern and attendance continues to be an issue, the employer has a written record. If you just call out 0-2 times a month going forward, nothing happens; if you continue to call out 3 separate times each month that is “written up”–i.e. recorded as a problem with your work–and might lead to termination. If someone calls out 3 or more times per month every month, that is in fact a lot. For the four month span, calling out 12-15 separate times–that’s a lot.

      For a coverage based job, the policy seems to fall toward treating people like adults who aren’t lying. And OP has now come up against what if that doesn’t work for one employee? In a coverage based job, someone being out once/week is in fact a lot.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I don’t think you understood the LW. The way he/she presented the attendance policy, you get written up every time you miss work, for any reason.

        1. Nancy*

          “Our attendance policy is a three-strikes-in-30-days policy, in which you get a written warning after three instances”

          Written warning after 3 separate instances within 30 days does not mean written up every time.

        2. Fluffy Fish*

          No – that’s not accurate.

          In a month if they call out 3 separate times they get a written warning.

          So I call out in June this week for the flu, next week for a headache, and the following week because my child is sick, I would get a written warning.

          OP further clarified that it is instances – so if I’m out M, T, W and Th for the flu, that is 1 instance.

    5. What's my name again?*

      It is literally explained in the letter what an instance is. It’s not just “any time an employee misses work, they get written up”.

  44. Just Thinkin' Here*

    OP #3 – This interview process is way, way, way, way, way too long. Six weeks for the entire process? OK, especially if there are alot of candidates (or government). Six weeks between each stage? Ridiculous. Unless you are the stalking horse candidate for someone who is retiring or being fired, this whole process sounds suspicious.

    Walk away – even if they offer you something in your salary range, this place is a management mess and treats employees and potential employees as having disposable time. They are courting you – this behavior is as good as it gets.

    1. OP #3*

      OP here – thanks for your comments, and I completely agree with you – at this point I wouldn’t accept the role even if the salary is excellent, because as you say, it tells me too much about the likely realities of working there

      1. Pizza Rat*

        I agree as well. The number of interviews is on the low end of average these days, but six weeks between is completely unreasonable.

  45. RVA Cat*

    OP’s husband should look up state law on wage theft but also unemployment. Not being paid should be constructive dismissal. At the very least, he should be on furlough from work if they can’t pay him.

  46. Katydid*

    Whenever I worked in food service type jobs, we didn’t have sick days and if you woke up ill you frequently spent the morning trying to find someone to cover your shift. This policy doesn’t seem all that bad, but the strike terminology makes it sound very punitive. The worst place I worked as far as sick days was a call center, where any day you called out for whatever reason, was called an “occurrence”. If you got so many occurrences you were disciplined, they counted against you for raises and promotions etc. So normally I came to work sick and made them send me home, it still counted as an occurrence, but in my head it made them realize it was “legitimate” and that I was a “team player” because I tried to come in. I only stayed there 6 months.

    1. Pizza Rat*

      I’m glad you got out. I’ve used that strategy as well, especially in jobs where I’ve had designated sick vs vacation time. Some people don’t trust employees to actually be sick.

  47. TheBunny*


    Here’s the thing about verifying a medical note…it’s a really slippery slope. You verify it for one person, you sort of have to verify for all or you are going to find yourself explaining (likely to a lawyer or a judge) why you verified the notes of that one employee and not those of others…and their poor attendance history isn’t going to help you there if they are in ANY protected class. Or if the absences are to care for someone, or if the absences should have triggered an FMLA conversation and didn’t.

    When I get a note I think is fake, I declare myself to not be a document expert and move on. It’s just not worth being wrong or setting verification precedent. The only time I clarify medical notes is if they are for FMLA and the details don’t allow me to have a conversation with the employee about accommodations.

    1. Cmdrshprd*

      “why you verified the notes of that one employee and not those of others…and their poor attendance history isn’t going to help you there if they are in ANY protected class.”

      I don’t think this is true, usually citing a legitimate business need/reason for doing something is fine, even if it might seem like it is discriminatory, it just can’t be a pretext.

      Saying employee B never calls out, or this was their first time in 4 years getting sick three times in a month, when they submitted the note I didn’t question it it looked valid, versus employee A calls out frequently and at the last minute, the note looked like it might be fake for xyz reasons so I called to verify it was true.

    2. BestBet*

      Every person is part of a protected class. Every person has a race, sex, religion, etc.

      I don’t like that this is true, but the vast majority of workers (especially service industry workers) don’t have the money or time to file a complaint or sue their employers for any reason, especially for something as frivolous as having a sick note verified. This would not be very high on my list of concerns.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      You don’t have to treat high performers and low performers equally; especially people who are on the verge of being fired.

      In this case:
      “this employee’s most recent attendance infraction was going to result in yet another written warning, quite possibly the last one before termination”

      It also sounds like a doctor’s note could be examined by HR to see if there are extenuating circumstances not to fire her. So if it looks fake, it’s kinder to delay submitting that note, because firing – without that final warning – would be certain if HR find it fake.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Also fighting this when you know the note is fake is probably not going to win you any favours, particularly in systems like ours where a doctor’s note is a legal document.

    4. Hyaline*

      Nah. If it looks fake, you can decide to verify it. You can decide your time is worth more than verifying every single one. You can also decide not to pursue verification on any of them, but I’d be cautious about letting obvious fakes pass for the sake of your own credibility and morale of non-lying employees.

    5. Observer*

      You verify it for one person, you sort of have to verify for all or you are going to find yourself explaining (likely to a lawyer or a judge) why you verified the notes of that one employee and not those of others…and their poor attendance history isn’t going to help you there if they are in ANY protected class.

      That’s a common misconception, and it gets a lot of people in trouble. Sometimes it’s a company that believes this and it leads to terrible management decisions, and sometimes is an employee that thinks this and it leads them to make stupid decisions that get them fired or disciplined and then they discover that, surprise! they are stuck because they are actually NOT protected.

      Being part of a marginalized group is not a get out of jail free card. And a documented history of poor attendance / poor behavior etc. *definitely* counts as a reason for different treatment.

  48. NotSarah*

    This is probably not the point, but I think push back against two days in office is kind of ridiculous. I currently have a 3/2 schedule and, for me, it feels pretty much the same as being full time remote.

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Your experience isn’t universal and for many, it does make a difference. Don’t call people ridiculous just because your experience is different.

    2. Dawn*

      It is emphatically not the same thing as being full-time remote though, particularly if you’re a medically vulnerable person or living with one.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      This is such an odd statement. If you have a long commute, of course it would feel different. If you have taken advantage of being home for something that needs to happen daily (e.g. walking the dog) then of course it would feel different. If you like working remotely because home is quiet and work is a cube farm, of course it would feel different.

      And someone who was hired at full-time remote is more likely to have said “so living on the opposite side of the state isn’t a big deal” or “so we can get that puppy because I’ll be home to let him out every 2 hours.”

      1. Dawn*

        Heh, yeah, up until recently I was working full-time remote, my office was minimum two hours drive each way, I don’t own a car, and I was considering moving further away (to where housing is much cheaper.)

        If you’re hired as a fully-remote employee you probably just can’t handle a rug-pull like that.

    4. I Have RBF*

      I work remotely. My company doesn’t even have an office within 200 miles of where I live. If they suddenly wanted me in the office two days a week, I would consider that to be something like constructive dismissal, because it’s impossible.

      But even if they had an office within 5 minutes walk, it would still be impossible. My spouse has cancer, I’m not risking her life to go in to an office and sit on Zoom all day. I don’t go out, we order in our groceries, order take out, and wear N95s when we go for her medical appointments.

      So please, miss me with your “… I think push back against two days in office is kind of ridiculous.” Push back against any in-office crap for jobs that can be done remotely is completely reasonable. This “butts in seats” BS is just stupid. If you like it, great. But don’t expect everyone to think that it’s “…the same as being full time remote.” Because it categorically is NOT.

      1. Superduperanonomous*

        Am I the only one that finds commenters (those replying to comments posted by others) to be trending towards, well inflammatory and nit pick-y? I used to really enjoy this site but it seems like in the last year or two, there are more and more comments along the lines of “I am right therefore you are wrong?”.

        1. Dawn*

          Social media algorithms are designed to encourage an Us vs. Them mentality in all things; that will absolutely bleed over into elsewhere. Take a look at any election, for example.

          I made a deliberate effort last year to completely divest myself of Twitter and Meta and it has been shocking how much my mood and attitude have both improved, and I really do place the blame mostly on them.

          1. I Have RBF*

            Yeah, I have cut back my Xitter/Meta use, because life is too short to deal with some of that crap. But I’m an old UseNet poster, and I actually have to work hard not to flame people for making broad pronouncements for everyone. I sometimes fail…

            No, not everyone eats sandwiches, not everyone likes remote work, and not everyone likes in-office work. If companies were more situationally flexible, people would be happier.

  49. spcepickle*

    For the interview bias –
    You are making a huge step in acknowledging that you have bias. I found this the hardest step for myself.
    I would suggest in the future – hire with a panel, we always use at least 3 and sometimes 4 people in our interviews. My goal is at least one person from outside my office, double important when I have internal candidates who I already know. I want people from different backgrounds, ages, and experiences. I am also lucky because I can normally get someone who either is doing or has done the job I am interviewing for. Having these different inputs helps balance out the bias.

    For now I don’t think you have to feel bad about picking the person who looks like you, sounds like they are an excellent candidate. It is important to remember that you only have one job. Seems like you have many people who can do that job which is amazing, but you only get to pick one.

    Also there is some great anti-bias training specifically aimed at interviews, many of them are free on youtube.

  50. kel*

    “Our attendance policy is a three-strikes-in-30-days policy, in which you get a written warning after three instances and then escalating disciplinary warnings for subsequent infractions. I actually find the policy quite lenient for most responsible people – most people are not getting sick three times in one month, and each illness counts as one instance – if you are sick with the flu for three days, that counts as one strike.”

    So, no matter what the reason, being absent is a strike?? So the implication is that all absences are bad? No, no nope. Nope.

    1. PotsPansTeapots*

      In all jobs, but especially coverage-based jobs, unplanned absences are bad, yes.

      1. Dandylions*

        IME unplanned absences aren’t “bad” in most places I’ve worked.

        Excessive unplanned absences are but just the normal number of absences expected for being human? Not a problem in the good places I’ve worked because we are staffed for redundancy to cover these absences.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Calling out unexpectedly about once/week would be considered excessive in lots of jobs.

          Staffing for redundancy is the correct route. But if someone is calling out at six times the average, it will stress the system. And all the people who didn’t mind covering once, but don’t want to cover at the last minute every week.

          1. kel*

            It seems like from this letter the OP gives strikes to all unplanned absences. The implication here is that any absence is a strike, and therefore bad.

            That’s bad!

      2. kel*

        Unplanned absences are human. They’re not bad. If you’re not staffed enough to cover unplanned absences, that’s on you. People get sick. People’s kids get sick.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          So if your hypothetical sick kid was in the hospital and there was a nursing shortage that day, you wouldn’t use any language like “This is bad, and stressful, and hard on me and the kid.”

          Something in the system failed. And there’s a distinction between our feelings about “What failed was a severe stomach bug taking down a lot of people in one area at once” vs “What failed was Fergus got an 82nd chance to be better, but then wasn’t, but Fergus is just human.”

          1. kel*

            Are you talking to me?

            I 100% blame the system. I sit in ERs and think about how incredibly brutal it is to be a doctor/nurse/healthcare worker in the situation that they’re put in, where they are overworked, understaffed and underpaid.

            I do not blame individuals, because how in the heck would I even know that about someone?

    2. Colette*

      How would you feel if your child’s daycare provider regularly called out 3+ days a month?

      What about the home care aide who helps your parent with their medication & shower?

      What about if your child’s school bus was regularly delayed by two hours because they were short drivers, or the ER wait time went from 4 hours to 24 hours?

      There are some jobs where it doesn’t matter if someone take the day off because the work will wait, but there are others where it really matters that people show up.

      1. Lily Potter*

        Yep! Or TSA screeners at the airport. Three screeners call out at the last minute, and one of the screening lines gets closed, and everyone in line waits another half hour. It’s all well and good to say that scheduling should be such that employees should be able to call in sick without impacting the work, but that just doesn’t happen in most service jobs where physical presence is essential.

        1. Dawn*

          These jobs should all staff well enough that one person can call out without it impacting their entire client base; the problem is with overly-lean staffing designed for robots that never break down so that we can provide another small dividend to shareholders.

          1. GythaOgden*

            I’ve been the overstaff person and it was awful. I left the first chance I could get — which was also fairly hard, because no work to do also meant no experience, I still had to come in every day anyway and it was only my great-grandboss noticing that I had more potential that pulled things in my favour — and even that took a year.

            You can’t staff so much that you’re paying people to sit idle. It may be cool at first, but sooner or later those people will leave for more productive and fulfilling experiences, or you’ll end up with difficulties paying everyone. Many service businesses run on thin margins and so showing up is a basic expectation of being employed.

            1. kel*

              There is a difference between overstaffed and staffed enough that someone calling in sick doesn’t mean the business runs to a halt.

              1. Dawn*

                Right, being appropriately staffed to manage coverage is a much different animal from being overstaffed; we’re talking about “lean staffing” which is something that’s only come into practice in the business world relatively recently – lean staffing models are basically those where there is no redundancy at all built into your staffing model, and many times it’s technologically moderated.

                At one point I briefly worked for a major retail store and they actually used a program to assign staffing that would have someone on for three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon with a big gap in the middle because the staffing was based on computer-recorded traffic patterns – the store was busier in the morning so an extra person was assigned for exactly those hours because the company wanted to claw back an extra two hours of minimum wage to “maximise profits”.

          2. Colette*

            But if one employee is calling out, say, one day a week on average, what happens when someone else gets sick? Being staffed for call outs doesn’t generally assume one person will be out 36+ days a year on unplanned absences.

        2. Coffee Protein Drink*

          and in some of those jobs, like call centers, which aren’t generating income, leadership is not willing to budget for what they’d call “excess.”

      2. kel*

        Sorry, so none of those people are allowed to get sick? Ever?

        What’s your solution here?

        1. Colette*

          Of course people are allowed to get sick! But 3+ sick days for one person every month is well above the norm, and can’t always be accommodated.

          In the school bus example, say you have 100 routes. There are 44 weeks that they’re needed, so that’s 22000 routes in total.

          If each person gets 2 weeks vacation and 1 week sick time, they can work 41 weeks of the year, so 100 people can cover 20500 routes. You hire another 7 drivers to cover the vacation and sick time.

          But … one employee takes 7 weeks sick time instead of 1. (Note that this is regular sick time; they have not asked for any accommodation for a chronic illness or other FMLA situation). Do you hire another driver simply because that one person takes 7x the allocated sick leave?

      3. Pescadero*

        “How would you feel if your child’s daycare provider regularly called out 3+ days a month?”

        I would feel like they obviously need to hire more staff to cover, because they are obviously understaffed and management is failing to appropriately staff.

        1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

          Are you willing to pay more for daycare so they can hire extra staff?

        2. doreen*

          Is it obvious that they are objectively understaffed rather than having an employee who isn’t reliable for this sort of job? What about if it’s a family day-care that needs two people – should the owner hire two assistants just in case one is on vacation and the other calls out that day? How much will the rate go up and are you OK with paying it? Suppose the “child-care provider” is your nanny – should you hire two because one regularly calls out (sick or not) more than 3 x a month?

          1. doreen*

            I meant to say “should the owner hire three assistants just in case one is on vacation and the other calls out that day?

      4. Person Person*

        How would you feel if your kid got extremely ill from any of these people coming into work?

        1. Pizza Rat*

          This is it exactly because management is not going to staff any more than the minimum they have to so more profits remain in owners’/stockholders profits. Nature of the beast.

  51. Dandylions*

    #1 Are you really sure this is an industry standard?

    If I had a dollar for everytime someone said: we pay better then market, our benefits are industry standard, we have industry standard pay grades, our PTO is better then industry, this asinine policy that you are complaining about is actually industry standard….only for it to be a “them” thing I could have a steak dinner.

    1. RussianInTexas*

      It’s not industry standard. It’s a generous policy by the service industry standard.

  52. Dawn*

    LW2: I cannot stress enough that the absolute bar none best way to mediate against your own biases is to have other people assess the same group that you are looking at. Even if it is ultimately your sole decision that counts, you should get more people in on this before making it, and genuinely take their opinions onboard.

    If I had a nickel for every time I worked with a man who was hired by another man who turned out to be absolutely terrible the moment he wasn’t speaking to another man…. I’m not saying that’s what’s happening here but the point is that it can and does.

  53. Yeah, the labor board can't help you*

    Hey LW4, sorry to say this, but the labor board cannot help your husband. I’ve been in the same position before. As long as they’re still paying him–even once every couple of months–the labor board requires you to withdraw your claim and resubmit every time you get paid, and often there’s a 3-6 month waiting period for them to investigate because they get so many claims. He has nothing actionable for them. Only hope is getting a new paying job. Good luck.

    1. Colette*

      I’m pretty sure this depends heavily on where you are. The OP’s husband should pursue a claim – and stop working for free in the meantime.

    2. Dawn*

      I understand that you had a bad experience and I’m sorry for that, but that’s no reason to encourage the OP (‘s husband) not to pursue their legal right to get paid, and paid on time.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is not universal, and I’d strongly encourage LW4 to contact their own jurisdiction’s DOL rather than relying one anecdote on the internet. Our DOL also approaches things differently if it is a dispute with a single employee v. more than one of them. The former is a call to the employer to try to come to an agreement; the latter is an immediate formal investigation launched (especially if the conduct has been going on for multiple pay periods).

  54. ijustworkhere*

    File the wage complaint. This is a very serious issue and it will go on as long as people are willing to work for no pay. Companies lie all the time. I’ll bet the leadership isn’t missing any paychecks.

  55. Liz the Snackbrarian*

    LW 1, the three strikes in 30 days also seems like it could be problematic for those who have chronic conditions and experience flare-ups. Also, does this policy apply to full days, or just partial days? Sometimes temporary conditions require a lot of follow-ups in quick successoin, like when I had a particularly gnarly case of scabies.

  56. Person Person*

    I think my biggest problem with LW 1 is coming from it from an inherently punitive place with the opportunity for leniency as opposed to the opposite, where a manger is checking in after three periods of absences but being open minded from the beginning.

  57. Cash Flow Manager*

    I work for a company that is struggling hard with cash flow. Not paying our employees is literally the LAST thing we will do. The fact that this company has nonchalantly not paid employees for months is outrageous. Somehow I feel like this magically only applies to the rank and file employees and management is still paying themselves??

    OP4’s husband needs to file a complaint STAT! There’s no retaliation that can be worse than working for free.

  58. Sick all the darn time*

    I have two small children, and the three-strikes policy would be a disaster.

    Also, I realize the post said a doctor’s note wasn’t required, but if one would benefit an employee (by delaying a write-up, etc.), I realllllly hope the company is providing its employees with good health insurance. Even still, it seems like a system that would benefit those who can afford (possibly numerous) copays.

  59. BeachGlue*

    The number of (presumably) white collar workers weighing in on how absences shouldn’t matter and things about kids/chronic illness/etc, when talking about service industry jobs is kind of *woah* here. I question whether anyone asking these questions has ever worked in a restaurant, store, or similar customer-facing service industry job? Because OP’s policy actually IS pretty lenient. And the question about what you do when you have kids or flare ups is that you get a different job. It seems uncharacteristically out of touch for this board for so many people to be acting gobsmacked that a significant requirement of service industry jobs is literally just showing up. If you can’t do that, you can’t do the job.

    Do service industry jobs often suck, in part of this? Yes, absolutely. But is this shocking news? I certainly hope not for people as savvy as Ask a Manager readers usually are.

    1. kel*

      Just because we suffered doesn’t mean everyone should suffer. An unfair policy is still unfair, even if it appear to be relatively lenient considering the alternative.

      1. BeachGlue*

        But how is it unfair? This policy says you can call out at the last minute up to 20% of your scheduled days, assuming you work 5 days a week. Even more if you work fewer days a week! And that you have to do this multiple months before they even consider firing you.

        What would happen at your job if you called out once a week?

        How is this an unfair policy? (Except to all the coworkers who presumably get called once a week and are begged to work an extra shift.)

    2. Hyaline*

      And having worked a fair number of years in service jobs early on…it sucks to have to have policies that assume people aren’t 100% honest about their absences but many people I worked with were not 100% honest. And the job is literally showing up—if you don’t show up it puts extra burden on everyone else, and if you’re doing it habitually it’s not sustainable. In an ideal world policies make accommodation for actual illness but look…people lie. And get hungover. And blow off work. And policies do have to reflect that or it sucks for the employees who are showing up.

    3. Parakeet*

      There are several people in this thread who disagree with the policy, who have said that they have worked coverage-based jobs. Not necessarily right now but at some point. You might still think those people are being overly idealistic in terms of what could have worked at their jobs. But they are saying that yes, they have worked them!

      Last time I had a coverage job, staff turnover was a way bigger cause of overwork and stress than unscheduled callouts, since it left staff having to make up the difference until a new person was hired (which, in this organization, was for various reasons often not quick). I realize that’s not true for every such job. But I think it’s still important to point out that if you burn through staff (as happens in so many public-facing roles) it’s going to create coverage problems too. And being punitive can burn through staff!

      1. BeachGlue*

        Working someplace where you’re constantly being asked if you’re willing to cover someone else’s shift at the last moment seems WAY more likely to lead to employee dissatisfaction than a policy that says you would need to call in at the last minute 4x a month, multiple months, before you were even at risk of being fired. Pretty sure that person doesn’t care much about the job anyway.

  60. TG*

    LW #3 – you immediately lost me at hiring process taking seven months… I would never get involved with the company that’s taking seven months to hire for a role. End of story. Let alone accompany that’s also not willing to share salary information.

  61. 1 Non Blonde*

    I could see unannounced absences being a strike (like no show/no call in) but getting a strike because you’re legitimately ill or have a family member who is ill? That’s…not cool.

    1. BeachGlue*

      That’s what the doctor’s note is for? It removes the strike?

      And the note-less calling out needs to happen 3 times in a 30 day period before you get written up. And then, if it’s a pattern, you get fired.

      I personally would love a job where I could randomly call out at the last minute 3x a month, month after month, without there being any repercussions. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        It doesn’t sound like it officially removes the strike, it sounds like LW1 is taking it into account with disciplinary/firing decisions but it’s a strike regardless of whether one has a note or not.

        1. BeachGlue*

          Okay? Part of being a service employee is showing up. If you can’t reliable show up, why wouldn’t the business document that? And if it’s a long pattern, why wouldn’t they let you go?

          I get that everyone wants to think of reasons why this policy is horrible and unfair. But at what point, WOULD it be acceptable to accept that this is not a reliable employee, who can’t be counted on to show up, and that it’s not worth the trouble of putting someone on the schedule for whom there’s an almost 20% chance you’re going to be frantically calling around trying to find a replacement for them any day they’re scheduled? (My math: calling out 4 times a month (OR MORE!), about 4.5 weeks in a month, on the schedule 5 days a week. And not just one month, when a series of unfortunate bad luck hit them… but with a steady history of not showing up to almost 20% of their shifts.)

    2. Hyaline*

      I think the assumption is that it would be very unusual to have three separate illnesses in one month—which, yeah, actually, it would be fairly unusual. Not impossible by a long shot but not a usual occurrence. Whether the exceptions are common enough to warrant changing the policy or a doctors note should erase one is a valid question but the job is literally showing up…and if you think everyone calling in at your average job is actually sick all the time…you have never worked at a fast food joint.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        and very unlucky indeed for that to happen for more than 1 month each year.

  62. Throwaway Account*

    for #2: there is a book called You just don’t understand: Men and women in conversation.

    That book and a few college courses co-taught by a woman and a man taught me just how frequently men and women cannot hear each other (I’d say its more how much men don’t hear women bc women are taught much earlier how to “decode” what men say). Then you have to consider how much different ethnic groups might do the same. I’d almost say that if YOU connected to them so well, it is likely a sign that you are choosing based on your own internal biases.

  63. fishpond*

    A lot of debate on sick leave policies here, but to answer the “how to verify a doctors note” question, here’s what I would do:
    – find the doctor or clinic name on the note and google it to see if they really exist
    – check if the address & contact info from the website match the info given in the note
    – if the place is real, call the contact number and ask them to verify the contents of the note – don’t ask for any additional medical info, just confirm that they did see this person and issue the note

    If you run into issues or discrepancies at any point in trying to do that, I’d take whatever you find back to the employee and give them a last chance to clarify any info, or come clean about lying. Do verify any additional info they give you.

    I hope being able to lay out “I called Dr. X’s office and the staff there told me you aren’t a patient of theirs and they didn’t write this note” or something similar will help you feel more confident in addressing this than just “this is obliviously fake right”

    1. PrivacyRules*

      It would likely be a HIPAA violation to verify this without explicit patient consent. A good response would be I can neither confirm nor deny or I am not allowed to answer that question.

      I say this as the privacy officer at a healthcare organization. If they answered it could get them fired, it could get the organization in trouble, or have other consequences.

      The patient needs to control the data/who the note or even the fast of its existence is shared with. The medical facility cannot.

  64. watermelon fruitcake*

    #1 No comment on the quality of your attendance policy, but Alison:

    The doctor shouldn’t disclose the employee’s medical information, but they can confirm they issued the note or tell you if they didn’t.

    I have definitely had doctors who will not even confirm is a patient is a patient of theirs unless the person calling is on the patient’s HIPAA waiver list. They treat the patient’s name as PII. YMMV.

    #5 If you have the financial means, speak to an employment lawyer before signing any contract re: your severance, even if only to review the terms. I know America is not the land of workers’ rights, and it might get you nowhere, but when negotiating severance employers are always going to cheap out and they figure you have no leverage. You may not have legal protections per se (or you might – could be argued that “scheduling changes” like this qualify as constructive dismissal), but you may still have bargaining chips. Again this is only a suggestion if you have the means – there’s no value spending $300 for a consultation if your severance ends up being $1200. But if your lawyer catches an illegal clause in your contract (cough non-compete cough), or challenges an NDA, or helps you negotiate from 2 weeks severance to 2 months, or for your employer to extend healthcare coverage for a few months, or a payout of your accumulated PTO even though it is not legally mandated… It may be worthwhile. Again, YMMV. And yes there exist lawyers who specialize in things like this, among various labor disputes.

    Also as an FYI even if you are paid severance you can apply for unemployment as soon as the severance runs out. If it happens you don’t find a new job in time — know your options and the benefits you are entitled to.

    1. doreen*

      “I have definitely had doctors who will not even confirm is a patient is a patient of theirs unless the person calling is on the patient’s HIPAA waiver list. They treat the patient’s name as PII. YMMV.”

      Mine does vary. I have absolutely had medical providers say” no I didn’t write that note” or “yes, I did write it” . My understanding is that the note itself doesn’t violate HIPAA because either 1) the doctor gives the note to the patient or 2) the patient authorizes the doctor to send it to the employer. And confirming that they wrote the note in situation 1 does not itself provide any medical information nor does saying they didn’t – any medical information was provided by the patient when they gave the note to the employer ( or school , or probation officer or wherever – it’s not only employers that get notes). Having the doctor send the info directly will generally eliminate any need for verification.

      1. PrivacyRules*

        the doctors typically give the note to the patient. they cannot verify anything about a patient including that they are a patient without explicit patient consent or they are, indeed, violating HIPAA. They may get a consent to share/send from the patient instead of giving the note to the patient in whi CV h case they would probably have the necessary permission to share.

        Signed, Privacy Officer at a healthcare organization

        1. doreen*

          I’m not going to tell you what your organization’s policy is – but I have absolutely had providers confirm or deny that they wrote a particular note and seen articles written by lawyers that specifically state HIPAA allows providers to confirm or deny that they have written a particular note Not confirm or deny that the person is a patient – there’s a difference. The verification involves faxing or showing them the note and they either say “I wrote this” or ” I didn’t write this”. ” I didn’t write this” doesn’t mean the person is not a patient – it means the provider didn’t write the note. And if you show my doctor the note I handed you and they say , “yes, I did write it” the doctor didn’t disclose that I’m a patient. I did that when I handed you the note. I assume that those providers have spoken to their lawyers/taken HIPAA training with their organization (which may have different policies than yours) . In any event, if the note is forged by a non-patient , the medical provider has no HIPAA obligation to begin with.

  65. Falling Diphthong*

    To put some numbers on #1:
    Most of us feel 5 sick days is stingy. This is a minimum of 36 sick days/year. Eight weeks of sick leave on the very low end; more like 70 days/ 14 weeks if the person is out two days per callout on average, or sometimes out 4-5 times/month.

    In a lot of jobs, that is just too much time off. Too much work backs up; too many other employees are annoyed at having to cover; too many days you open late; too many customers/clients/patients get fed up and leave because it’s just no longer predictable for them.

    Usually this sort of time off is for a long-time employee going through a major medical crisis, and the time is taken all at once, predicted beforehand. If migraines mean you call out 20-40% of the time: in a lot of jobs that becomes unsustainable.

    1. BeachGlue*

      Right? I’m so confused by the people upset at this. Like, they’re not doing the math AT ALL to figure out how much time this is.

      1. doreen*

        And even if it’s not too much time off , scheduled time off is not the same as unscheduled time off . I earned 20 days vacation every year, 7 personal days and 13 sick days. I could schedule all forty of those days off with no problem because if I scheduled them off that means my supervisor was not going to approve so many other people to have the same time off that it presents operational problems. But taking even 20 unscheduled days off is likely to cause a problem because there will be some times where I’m calling out while someone else is on vacation and so on. At my last assignment there was one person who performed a specific task – let’s call her Jane. When Jane was on vacation or out sick , Sally picked up that task, which had a very tight deadline ( the deadline to respond to emails was 2 days). In the 10 years I worked with her, Jane did not take a single week long vacation. She only took individual days off and they were usually unscheduled. Which caused problems when she called out on days that Sally was off and meant that Jane was constantly missing deadlines. I don’t think Jane was exactly lying about being sick – I think it was more like she had a very low threshold for staying home

  66. Meliss*

    I do not understand how anyone can put up with not being paid for months. If that happened I’d be evicted and have no food or anything. But to put up with it for months without complaining is insane.

    And no, I don’t live in the US.

  67. PrivacyRules*

    Alison told OP1 to verify the note, but be aware the doctor needs explicit patient permission to do so or it’s a privacy violation under HIPAA.

    So they would need to tell the employee they need to verify the mg note and the patient needs to consent to the doctor sharing that information with the employer.

    Signed, Privacy Officer at a healthcare org

  68. Frosty*

    The question about the fake doctor’s note is interesting. I work in an industry where a significant percentage are immigrants to Canada that frequently visit their country-of-origin. We get a lot of doctor’s notes from other countries now saying that they cannot return on time for work due to illness. There is a growing suspicion around those notes because they are literally foreign, hard to trace, don’t look like “local” notes etc. I think there will be changes to doctor’s note requirements (either more strict or removing altogether?) in the near/mid future.

Comments are closed.