Ask StratEx HR: What to Do When An Employee Lies About Being “Out Sick”

Dear StratEx HR,

brunchIt has recently come to my attention that one of our servers called in sick for her shift on Saturday. As you know, Saturdays are one of our restaurant’s busiest days. This employee claimed that she was sick; however, another server saw her out partying at brunch via her Snapchat story. The other server also stated that the Snapchat story showed the employee partaking in the use of illegal drugs. With the new sick leave laws, I cannot ask an employee for a doctor’s note and clearly she was not sick.

Can we dock this employee’s pay for the day as an unexcused absence? Can we discipline her for lying and going out to party instead of working her shift? Can I terminate her for the use of illegal drugs based on our policy? I don’t want to set the precedent for our other employees that sick time is a free for all.

Brunch So Hard

Dear Brunch So Hard,

Social media has severely changed the amount, and type, of information that we can uncover about our employees. The first thing that you should always consider in situations such as this one, is whether or not the employee was representing the company while these actions took place.

If the employee is caught drinking or doing illegal activities while on company time, either at your restaurant or out in the community, then it is within your legal right to hold that employee to all applicable policies. On the other hand, if the employee is on their own time, the company cannot manage, coach, or discipline those actions– even if we don’t agree with the behavior from the company’s moral perspective. (Please note that some policies clearly state guidelines that extend outside of the workplace, e.g. harassment. Employers can still hold employees accountable for those infractions even if they occur outside of work.) 

In addition, we never want to discipline an employee based on speculation or rumors. If you have not seen the evidence first-hand, and do not have all the facts surrounding the incident, then your best move forward is to not act in a negative way. Instead, monitor the employee’s performance in the workplace to understand whether or not her performance is being impacted or determine if a concerning pattern is developing.

If you do witness her actions first-hand via a social media platform, the best thing you can do is let the employee know that you are aware of her “unexcused absence” and reiterate the company’s policies on attendance, professionalism, zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol in the workplace, and acceptable reasons for using paid sick leave. After you’ve had this conversation with her, make sure you document everything that was communicated. As a company, you will want to determine if there is a pattern of absences developing and prove that a conversation was had with the employee about the definition of a reasonable absence, per the law.

Let the laws and company policies guide you to a strong and effective management decision. In situations like this, where you know the employee is taking advantage of a policy, determine what other policies might have been violated in the process. For example, did the employee adhere to the call in/out procedure properly?

Overall, we must remember that our employees are allowed to lead lives outside the workplace; however, if we determine they are lying, then we should use all tools available to correct the behavior and reiterate the expectations of the company. Finally, remember that being friends or following your employees on social media is always tricky and can lead to further complications in the company/employee relationship.

StratEx HR

BBB Scam: Don’t click that link

Phishing Alert: The BBB and FLSA?

We were recently contacted by one of our clients because they had received a confusing email from the Better Business Bureau.

image-ashxSpecifically, the email came from the “Better Business Bureau Compliance Department”, and it stated that our client had received an employee complaint claiming that they were in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The email included a link that promised to give our client access to the full claim document and further explanation. Finally, the “BBB” requested a response to their email within 48 hours that included details showing “what you intend to do about it”.

This is weird. Especially since:

a) generally, wage and hour violation claims are not initially communicated via email, and
b) the Better Business Bureau doesn’t enforce FLSA claims – the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the US Department of Labor does

One of our HR Account Managers advised our client to contact the Better Business Bureau directly to check out this strange request. An email was quickly received back with dire warnings about the message they had received:

“These emails are going to companies AND individuals.  In each case, they ask you to click on a link that appears to go to a BBB page, or you are asked to download an attached form or file. These are very dangerous emails.  It is important that you do NOT click on any of the links in the emails or download any attachments.”

Below, you’ll find the full reply from the real BBB, which includes instructions on what to do if you receive an email like this, and here is a link to the BBB website with further information.

Unfortunately, phishing scams like these are not going away. When opening email, the old adage stands: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If something seems strange, ask for a second opinion from someone you trust, and definitely… don’t click that link.

Here is the full response to our client from the real BBB:

Thank you for contacting the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

You may have received an email that says your company is the subject of a complaint filed with BBB, or asks that you complete a BBB business questionnaire, or claims that a customer review about your business has been posted. It may reference a case number or it may be vague on the details.

These emails are going to companies AND individuals.  In each case, they ask you to click on a link that appears to go to a BBB page, or you are asked to download an attached form or file.

These are very dangerous emails.  It is important that you do NOT click on any of the links in the emails or download any attachments.

If you did click on a link or open or download any attachments, your computer may have unwittingly downloaded a stealthy malware program which is able to pass by most anti-virus programs undetected.  In the event you clicked on a link, you should consider having your computer scanned by a trusted computer repair professional to see if any malware is present and, if so, can be removed.

If you did not click on any links or attachments, you are still strongly encouraged to run a complete virus scan on your system.

You can learn more about these bogus phishing and malware scams at

In the future, if you receive an email that appears to come from Better Business Bureau, please check with your local BBB office to determine whether it is legitimate.  You can find your local BBB office by visiting   You can also forward the email to for assistance.

Thank you for contacting the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc.  We hope this information is helpful.

Council of Better Business Bureaus