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Gingersnap
12-06-2010, 12:46 PM
The Sick-Day Bounty Hunters

As an alarming number of workers play hooky, corporations are clamping down—and calling in the detectives

By Eric Spitznagel

December 6, 2010

Rick Raymond parked his black Kia SUV behind a row of trees and peered out at his target. It was 4 a.m. on a recent morning, and Raymond—a seasoned private detective who has worked roughly 300 cases, from thieves to philandering spouses—was closing in on a different sort of prey. Recently, Raymond has come to occupy a new and expanding niche in the surveillance universe. Corporations pay him to spy on workers who take "sick days" when they may not, in fact, be sick. Such suspicion has led Raymond to bowling alleys, pro football games, weddings, and even funerals. On this morning it has taken him to a field outside the home of an Orlando repairman whose employer is doubtful about his slow recovery from a car accident. Although Raymond tries to be impartial about his subjects, "80 to 85 percent of the time," he says, "there's definitely fraud happening."

Playing hooky without getting caught—as immortalized in the cat-and-mouse skirmish between Ferris Bueller and Principal Rooney in Ferris Bueller's Day Off—used to be an adolescent rite of passage. Now it has given rise to a thriving industry, with stern legal precedent to back it up. In 2008, Raybestos Products, a car parts manufacturer in Crawfordsville, Ind., hired an off-duty police officer to track an employee suspected of abusing her paid medical leave. When the employee, Diana Vail, was fired after the cop produced substantial evidence that she was exploiting her benefits, she sued Raybestos. In what became the landmark case for corporate snooping, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed her lawsuit. A panel of judges declared that while surveillance "may not be preferred employer behavior," it wasn't unlawful. According to Susan W. Kline, a partner at the Baker & Daniels law firm in Indianapolis, the case "encouraged [companies] to consider hiring their own private detectives." It also set a precedent, she says, that "reasonable suspicion" is sufficient justification for employer spying.

Such techniques have become permissible at a time when workers are more likely to play hooky. Kronos, a workforce productivity firm in Chelmsford, Mass., recently found that 57 percent of U.S. salaried employees take sick days when they're not really sick—a nearly 20 percent increase from statistics gathered between 2006 and 2008. Taking such risks amid an economic meltdown, suggests Kronos Senior Director Joyce Maroney, has less to do with foolish confidence than a general lack of enthusiasm for work. "People are staying in jobs they don't like because of a fear that there won't be another job out there," she says. "With less job satisfaction, there's a greater propensity for sick-time abuse."

That's great news for the corporate surveillance business. Alliance Worldwide Investigative Group, a private investigation firm in Clifton Park, N.Y., with experience in corporate sleuthing, charges $75 per hour per investigator. And those hours add up. According to Alliance Chief Executive Officer and founder Mario Pecoraro Jr., successful surveillance requires establishing a pattern of activity that, he says, "can sometimes require multiple days, or even weeks."

Perhaps this is because workers have become increasingly inventive with their sick-day tomfoolery. This summer, Middletown (Pa.) schoolteacher Leslie Herneisey—a three-time Teacher of the Year nominee—was arrested and charged with lying to colleagues about having an inoperable brain tumor so she could take extended sick leave. In 2009 four firefighters in Haverhill, Mass., were suspended after a private investigator, hired by the mayor, caught them attending hockey games and engaging in other blatantly non-sick-day activities.

They are not alone in their ambition. Earlier this year, Raymond investigated an employee at a Florida health organization who called in sick with the flu for three days. As Raymond discovered, she was actually visiting the Universal Studios theme park. "On some of those roller coasters, they take your picture at a really sharp turn, and then you can buy it at a kiosk," Raymond recalls. "She went on three rides, and I bought all three of her pictures, which had the date at the bottom." When confronted with the evidence by her employers, Raymond says her first response was, "That's not me!" After they played Raymond's video of her volunteering at the theme park's animal show, her only defense was, "I don't even remember that!" She was fired.

More at the link.

Business Week (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_50/b4207093635068.htm?campaign_id=rss_topStories)

Jfor
12-06-2010, 12:58 PM
If companies allow employees to have sick days, then I can see them getting sued pretty badly for this.

NJCardFan
12-06-2010, 01:03 PM
The state of NJ is going to be cracking down on sick days again. A few years ago, they used to require you to be home to get a sick call verification but they did away with it. But, according to the union, starting next year, if the state designates a day as a "significant event" i.e. Super Bowl Sunday, they will require a doctors note if you call out 2 days before or 2 days after including the day. Same with the start and end of your vacation or scheduled days off. Funny thing is that this will end up costing the state a fortune because in order to get a doctors note, most doctors require you to come in for a visit and pay the co-pay.

noonwitch
12-06-2010, 01:22 PM
I would guess that companies aren't hiring PIs to investigate every employee who calls in sick on a given day, only those who have some kind of pattern or other reason for the employer to be suspicious.


Like the woman who asked for extended sick leave for a brain tumor-I couldn't do that without some pretty extensive documentation from the doctor. Or the one who went to Universal Studios-I'll bet the boss had some reason to suspect she was up to something. If we call in more than 3 consecutive days, we are expected to have a note from the doctor. Incidentally, I've never been asked for one, though. I had surgery and took two weeks off once, and although I offered to give my supervisor the documentation, she took my word for it. I also missed 4 days once from a stomach bug, and the supervisor I had at the time also didn't ask for any documentation. This is because I don't call in sick all that often.

Kay
12-06-2010, 01:35 PM
Where I work, we get x number of PTO (personal time off) days that accrue monthly. You have to use that for your vacation AND sick time. It's up to you how you spend it, but it all comes out of the same basket.

AmPat
12-06-2010, 01:41 PM
As union influence grows and government expands, and both will continue under the O Blah Blah administration, this will be more rampant. Look to domestic surveillance as the next unintended consequence and new jobs sector. Thanks to DUmmyRAT "leadership."

Gingersnap
12-06-2010, 05:02 PM
Where I work, we get x number of PTO (personal time off) days that accrue monthly. You have to use that for your vacation AND sick time. It's up to you how you spend it, but it all comes out of the same basket.

This is the sensible way to do it and non-union companies are all moving in this direction. Who cares why you're off? The time is part of your total compensation just like your salary is - it's not some kind of special gift from Mommy that you're only supposed to use with parental supervision. :rolleyes:

djones520
12-06-2010, 05:13 PM
Thats how sick days work for us. We don't call in sick. We get put on quarters by the doctor. 9 years I have had a total of 4 sick days.

1 due to an infection after oral surgery, 3 due to the flu.

Rockntractor
12-06-2010, 06:27 PM
Most of the time when I call in sick I'm to much of an asshole to let myself off!:mad:

Madisonian
12-06-2010, 06:41 PM
1 due to an infection after oral surgery.

I thought having one's foot removed from one's mouth would be considered podiatry.:D

Rockntractor
12-06-2010, 07:14 PM
If you distrust an employee that much just get rid of them, I think this is bullshit and also all the spy cameras they are putting in factories to boost production.
I hope I never have to work at a place like that again, God willing.

PoliCon
12-06-2010, 07:26 PM
Unions have promoted the idea that the employers owe the employees more than just their pay and they have instilled the idea of work only as hard as you must to get payed because if you work harder you make other people look bad. :rolleyes:

Zathras
12-06-2010, 07:32 PM
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_NOvrR04ya88/STQ2KAmfIOI/AAAAAAAAAMQ/L2CXUvK1p64/s400/bobafett.jpg

Are disintigrations allowed?

Rockntractor
12-06-2010, 07:57 PM
Unions have promoted the idea that the employers owe the employees more than just their pay and they have instilled the idea of work only as hard as you must to get payed because if you work harder you make other people look bad. :rolleyes:
In my 25 years in machine shops only two years were union. I vowed after that to never work in a union shop again.

PoliCon
12-06-2010, 08:15 PM
In my 25 years in machine shops only two years were union. I vowed after that to never work in a union shop again.

I still need to bide my time for a little while longer . . . . :(

Rockntractor
12-06-2010, 08:18 PM
I still need to bide my time for a little while longer . . . . :(
I don't think a school teacher has any choice in your area, in Tulsa I had many choices, the union shops were few.

PoliCon
12-06-2010, 08:39 PM
I don't think a school teacher has any choice in your area, in Tulsa I had many choices, the union shops were few.

Oh I have to belong - but once tenure is reached I can finally open my mouth.

m00
12-06-2010, 09:15 PM
]If you distrust an employee that much just get rid of them,[/B] I think this is bullshit and also all the spy cameras they are putting in factories to boost production.
I hope I never have to work at a place like that again, God willing.

The problem is, with Unions in play, it might not be that easy. You hit the nail on the head though. If employers were free to terminate employment at will then this wouldn't be a problem.

m00
12-06-2010, 09:16 PM
Unions have promoted the idea that the employers owe the employees more than just their pay and they have instilled the idea of work only as hard as you must to get payed because if you work harder you make other people look bad. :rolleyes:

Ah, but employers have promoted the idea that employees own them more than just their work. In my contract (and its a VERY standard contract), for example, if I write a work of fiction on my personal computer on weekends it belongs to my company. If I develop cold fusion in my basement, it belongs to my company.

Rockntractor
12-06-2010, 09:22 PM
Ah, but employers have promoted the idea that employees own them more than just their work. In my contract (and its a VERY standard contract), for example, if I write a work of fiction on my personal computer on weekends it belongs to my company. If I develop cold fusion in my basement, it belongs to my company.

I had better get that patented right away!:eek:

m00
12-06-2010, 09:26 PM
I had better get that patented right away!:eek:

You joke, but I think it's an interesting dynamic. Another thing is company loyalty. Every company I've worked for expects me to be loyal - aka if a competitor comes along in the middle of a project and wants to double my salary, I am expected not to take that offer. In fact, most of the contracts I've had for a variety of places has a non-compete clause they can invoke.

On the other hand, how many people expect their company to be loyal to them? Never, if you are doing a bad job you expect the company to fire you. But if the company is doing a bad job, you are expected to stick around.

At least in creative industries, I notice this trend is increasing.

Rockntractor
12-06-2010, 09:30 PM
You joke, but I think it's an interesting dynamic. Another thing is company loyalty. Every company I've worked for expects me to be loyal - aka if a competitor comes along in the middle of a project and wants to double my salary, I am expected not to take that offer. In fact, most of the contracts I've had for a variety of places has a non-compete clause they can invoke.

On the other hand, how many people expect their company to be loyal to them? Never, if you are doing a bad job you expect the company to fire you. But if the company is doing a bad job, you are expected to stick around.

At least in creative industries, I notice this trend is increasing.

I have several patents for measuring machines and holding fixtures that I designed for the JDAM project that are owned by the air force now. I got my wages and a pat on the back, oh well.

Gingersnap
12-06-2010, 09:33 PM
Unions have promoted the idea that the employers owe the employees more than just their pay and they have instilled the idea of work only as hard as you must to get payed because if you work harder you make other people look bad. :rolleyes:

No, sick time and vacation time (as we know it today) along with health care were incentives used by all employers during WWII to recruit when wages were forcibly stagnant.

Today, these things are part of an employee's total compensation. It's what any of us contract for, union or not. What's wrong here is the parental view of employee leave. Some employers act as though sick leave (or vacation time) can only be taken under the "right" circumstances. You have to be sick enough or worthy enough for a vacation. That's nuts.

While employees need to take company staffing needs into consideration when they take off, if the the schedule is arranged, no other questions need to be asked.

This P.I. stuff seems like it needs to be confined to people abusing FMLA or other programs, not people faking a sick day.

PoliCon
12-06-2010, 09:33 PM
Ah, but employers have promoted the idea that employees own them more than just their work. In my contract (and its a VERY standard contract), for example, if I write a work of fiction on my personal computer on weekends it belongs to my company. If I develop cold fusion in my basement, it belongs to my company.

There is no way I would sign a contract that gave my employer control of anything I produced in my free time - and if I had to - I'd hold any of that work until after the contract ended.

m00
12-06-2010, 09:36 PM
There is no way I would sign a contract that gave my employer control of anything I produced in my free time - and if I had to - I'd hold any of that work until after the contract ended.

In some industries you don't really have a choice. If it's that or being unemployed...

Also, when I say "contract" I mean "employment contract" as in permanent position. Most of the time you can get a waiver (has to be signed by management) for personal side projects as long as they dont compete with the core business, but it's interesting that the default is the company owns everything you do, even if it's in your free time with your own resources.

PoliCon
12-06-2010, 09:38 PM
No, sick time and vacation time (as we know it today) along with health care were incentives used by all employers during WWII to recruit when wages were forcibly stagnant.

Today, these things are part of an employee's total compensation. It's what any of us contract for, union or not. What's wrong here is the parental view of employee leave. Some employers act as though sick leave (or vacation time) can only be taken under the "right" circumstances. You have to be sick enough or worthy enough for a vacation. That's nuts.

While employees need to take company staffing needs into consideration when they take off, if the the schedule is arranged, no other questions need to be asked.

This P.I. stuff seems like it needs to be confined to people abusing FMLA or other programs, not people faking a sick day.

The trouble is people tend to take sick time during high volume business times - hence what NJ said about what you need to have in order to call off Superbowl Sunday. Most businesses only care when they know the system is being abused - when they're looking for an excuse - or when people take time off during high volume business time. And why don't these people take a personal day? Or a day off without pay?

Gingersnap
12-06-2010, 11:41 PM
The trouble is people tend to take sick time during high volume business times - hence what NJ said about what you need to have in order to call off Superbowl Sunday. Most businesses only care when they know the system is being abused - when they're looking for an excuse - or when people take time off during high volume business time. And why don't these people take a personal day? Or a day off without pay?

They don't have personal days - that's the problem. When all your leave aside from maternity leave, short-term disability, funeral/adoption leave and leave without pay, is in one pot, you don't have "sick leave" or anything else. Every leave day is a "personal day".

Too many places (and all union places) divvy it up by type. That's wrong. It's not actually "okay" for employers to do a lot of leave-without-pay. Sure, you aren't paying them but the workforce that is left has to suck up all the hours themselves with no hope of relief.

noonwitch
12-07-2010, 12:14 PM
The trouble is people tend to take sick time during high volume business times - hence what NJ said about what you need to have in order to call off Superbowl Sunday. Most businesses only care when they know the system is being abused - when they're looking for an excuse - or when people take time off during high volume business time. And why don't these people take a personal day? Or a day off without pay?



When I worked at K-Mart or Steketee's, there were two days no employee could miss without a very good reason-Black Friday and December 26. K-Mart told us that if we called in on either day, we might as well quit because we were fired.