What to Do When Employees Fake COVID Symptoms

How many employers since April 1, 2020, have asked themselves, “are they for real?” when confronted with an employee seeking leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). With cases rising around the country, more employers will be faced with the inevitability of a reported positive case among their employees or increased need for childcare related leave. The most critical step any employer can take is to have a comprehensive, workable plan that can be rolled out immediately, consistently, and compassionately.

Despite the calls from both federal and state governments asking for employers to remain flexible when addressing these leave requests, there are real consequences for faking that positive test or requesting leave when not needed. Both the FBI and other local law enforcement agencies nationwide have reported terminations and even arrests stemming from false documentation being provided by employees seeking FFCRA leave. Employers should be vigilant when reviewing the submitted documentation, and if something doesn’t feel right, investigate to the extent allowed under the law. This can mean asking the employee for clarifying information or validating that the doctor’s office listed is legitimate.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has released an online tool that can assist employees trying to navigate their way through the eligibility process for leave under the FFCRA. The easy to use tool involves answering a series of questions, including whether the employee is a health care provider/first responder, has been advised to self-quarantine, is furloughed, is ill or has decided, without consultation with a health care provider that they should self-quarantine. Each specific scenario provides an immediate answer with guidance on how to approach their employer or further information to consider. DOL indicates that an employer tool is on its way to assist Human Resource and other personnel in making these difficult decisions. The tool can be found here.