A colleague who reports to me has been taking sick days (back issues etc... and, we have unlimited sick day policy). However, it looks like it has not made significant dent on life outside of work - after hours/ weekends. This person is connected to another colleague on Facebook and that person keeps reporting "Looks like another night out ..." while the posts are by this individual none of the post show the person.

I have had multiple conversations with this individual about their sub par performance even prior to the medical condition. Now, due to the medical condition their absence from work has increased and performance has decreased further.

My question is a) How do I bring this disconnect between work and after work to this person's attention/ HR b) Should I even treat this as a medical condition and request doctor's note etc... or should I treat it as performance issues and remove the person c) Will treating this as performance issue open us to legal action due to medical condition etc...

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    Being unable to work and being unable to participate in social live are not always connected. If he has problems with his back, it might mean that he cannot sit for a long time or that he is unable to commute to the workplace. A colleague had such a problem, he was ill quite often but his doctor asked him to do a lot a sports. Of course sports and parties are too different things ...
    – r.ams
    May 25, 2015 at 15:38
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    Seconding @keshlam. Also adding: it's possible someone has a legitimate medical issue that is different than the one they are publicly reporting. Before I decided to be more open about my issues with clinical anxiety and clinical depression, about 2/3 of the "migraines" that kept me home for work were really a case of "brain chemistry issues are making it impossible for me to come in today" (the remaining third were actually headaches) May 25, 2015 at 16:39
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    What if "Looks like another night out ..." is a coded word for, maybe, going to the hospital? I know people who use the word "dancing", like "what a dance last night!", after a night at the hospital or sick at their bed. May 25, 2015 at 18:26
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    Do you have a doctor note policy? We have unlimited sick days at my company, but after 3 days you need a note from your doctor explaining why. If you're really sick (or in pain, or whatever) you should be seeing a doctor about it anyway. Most walk-ins around here (Alberta, Canada) charge $10 or $20 for the note.
    – corsiKa
    May 25, 2015 at 20:17
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    "What if "Looks like another night out ..." is a coded word for, maybe, going to the hospital?" Or just a flat out lie. People care about their image on facebook, for some reason.
    – Andy
    May 26, 2015 at 14:43

4 Answers 4


Exactly what you can do about it depends on company policy and the laws of the place where you work. If an employee is taking a large number of sick days, you should be able to demand some proof that he is really sick. Companies that I've worked for that had unlimited sick days -- well, most just take your word for it for a day or two. After that they may require a receipt or note from a doctor.

There's (at least) one case where it is your business even if you're not his boss: If the two of you are supposed to be working on something together, and his constant absences are forcing you to do his job or endangering the successful completion of a project. Then it's appropriate to talk to the boss about it. But again, I'd think you tell the boss there's a problem, and then let him deal with it. That's what he's paid for, and he's supposed to have the authority to do something about it, which you don't.

I'd be cautious about drawing conclusions based on Facebook posts about his personal life. He might be exaggerating how much he parties because he thinks that's a fun thing to do. He might have a medical problem that interferes with work but not his partying for any number of reasons. If it came to a wrongful termination lawsuit, "he posted on Facebook that he was going to a party" probably wouldn't be strong evidence of anything. If you need evidence that he is faking an illness that will hold up in court, you'd probably have to hire a private detective. Or at least have something more concrete than "he posted on Facebook that he was going to a party".

  • Yes, this person reports to me. This person is connected to a different person in Facebook and it is thru that person I came to know of Facebook posts. Though, the employee has been sharing stories of going out for movies over the weekend. May 25, 2015 at 19:32
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    @shikarishambu Then I would consult with HR regarding the policy and have them advise on what the next course of action would be. Surely with an unlimited sick day policy there are provisions set up to prevent abuse. If he has all the necessary paperwork and is completing his tasks on schedule there may be nothing you can do. Try not to take it personally.
    – zfrisch
    May 25, 2015 at 20:59
  • I don't know the details. It's not implausible that someone could be too sick to do productive work, but could manage to make it to a movie theater and stare at the screen. I can't say I've ever gone to a movie when sick, but I've certainly watched TV. Etc. Without knowing the details of what's in the FB posts and the details of his job duties, I can't say if that would be proof that he's lying about being sick.
    – Jay
    May 26, 2015 at 5:28

My question is a) How do I bring this disconnect between work and after work to this person's attention/ HR

What this person does or doesn't do after work isn't any of your business. What this person posts on Facebook is not your business, either. What this person does on the job is.

Instead of focusing your attention on a "disconnect", focus on work, and how this person's sick days are affecting the assigned work (if they actually are).

Something like: "You know, Bob, when you are out sick others have to pick up the slack. Taking so many sick days really puts a burden on the entire team. While you can't control when you get sick, I hope you try harder to be in work when you can, and stay away only when it's really necessary."

b) Should I even treat this as a medical condition and request doctor's note etc... or should I treat it as performance issues and remove the person

Most companies have a specific policy about this. Consult HR and ask. If the absences require a doctor's note per HR, then bring it up with this person right away, and require one.

If there is a performance issue to the extent that you feel this person must be removed, then clearly you haven't been handling your managerial role in a timely manner. Again, consult HR for guidance and find out if a Performance Plan is in order, or if you should deal with the poor performance some other way.

c) Will treating this as performance issue open us to legal action due to medical condition etc...

Maybe. It depends on many factors - your locale, the person's actual medical condition, if there actually is a performance issue, etc.

Again, you seem unclear. Consult HR for advice and guidance.

You post says nothing about poor performance - only that you feel wronged by someone who has unlimited sick days, calling in sick but doing non-sick things after hours and weekends. Try to get clear regarding what is the real problem here before acting on it.

[Edit] Sounds like the problem you should concentrate on is the poor performance, and not the other factors that may or may not contribute.

  • I guess I was not explicit about poor performance. Actually, I have had multiple conversations with the individual about their sub par performance. Then,came this medical condition which seems to have increased the absence from work and decreased the performance further. May 25, 2015 at 22:01
  • @shikarishambu which indicates that his medical issues may well be stress related, combined with very poor morale because he considers himself undervalued.
    – jwenting
    Jul 5, 2019 at 3:32

My answer is based on the presumption, which I gathered from the body of your post, that you are manging your colleague.

The unlimited sick leave policy is meant to apply to those who are sick. If someone is sick, you can react in two ways.

  1. Take the person at their word that they are sick - This reaction is most appropriate when the person is sick for a short period of time. If I am rolling on the floor because I ate something that I should have thrown out six months ago, don't make me drag myself to the doctor's office :)

  2. Make the person substantiate their claim that they are sick - If the employee can make it to the nightclub after hours, surely he can make it to the doctor's office. In fact, if he is taking that many sick days, he SHOULD be going to the doctor's office.

  3. You should ask the employee if he can work from home - No employee who operates in good faith would turn down working from home if working from home helps him get around his medical condition.

If you are not management and his performance is impacting yours, ten you'll have to escalate the non-performance aspect of his work to your management.

  • in most legislations you definitely need a doctor's note after a certain amount of days. But if they are not consecutive I don't know if it's possible. In my country, if there is a suspect, the company can also hire its own doctor to do an evaluation. I would definitely ask for a doctor's note and find out the truth. Until then, I'd keep the mind open.
    – Formagella
    May 25, 2015 at 17:44

Note that disabilities can be episodic. I knew someone who had asthma attacks bad enough that he literally wasn't able to walk across the parking lot and hence used the handicapped parking spaces -- but if you saw him between these attacks it fas far from obvious that he had a health condition at all.

If you have a legitimate reason to know, talk with the employee about exactly what their limitations are and how the employee and the company can work together to work around them.

If you don't -- if you aren't in this employee's management chain -- this is none of your business. Butt out and trust that management is trying to do something reasonable.

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