FMLA Abuse Investigations: Hiring the Right Investigator

FMLA Abuse Investigations: Hiring the Right Investigator

The Family and Medical Leave Act is supposed to give employees the ability to attend to personal or family matters like recovering from surgery or caring for an infirm family member without the fear of losing their job. However, the same legislation meant to protect employees can also be exploited by employee misconduct. Regardless of whether or not an employee is abusing FMLA, the employer’s burden of proof is dependent on establishing the quality of FMLA abuse investigations into the claim.

Because of the complex, contentious nature of an FMLA abuse investigations, some employers are shy or negligent about performing due-diligence. It’s true that hiring a professional to conduct a comprehensive FMLA abuse investigation can be a very expensive endeavor that many employers would rather skip and rely on their own investigating to determine whether or not there is cause to terminate the employee. However, this is incredibly short-sighted, and can result in very negative consequences for the employer.

For example, in one scenario, an employee submitted a request for FMLA leave in order to address their inability to meet hourly fulfillment quotas because of their bad knee. Choosing to skip the professional FMLA abuse investigation, the employer got online and found the employee’s social media pages—a source commonly used in FMLA abuse investigations. The employer observed the employee dancing in a video posted to their profile. The employer closes the case, determining that the employee’s FMLA claim was fraudulent. After all, if they’re able to dance, they should be able to make fulfillment requirements.

However, imagine the shock the employer received when the court upheld the employee’s FMLA claim in subsequent court action when the judge ruled that the employer was negligent in comprehensively investigating the claim. The employer was not able to provide proof that they had conducted a field investigation, nor had they consulted a medical expert regarding the employee’s injuries. Thus, the court ruled in the employee’s favor, and was awarded damages. This is why it’s always imperative to hire a professional for FMLA abuse investigations in order to ensure that no stone is left unturned and the employer can remain above reproach in any subsequent legal action.

Hiring a private investigator for FMLA abuse investigations also means you get the benefit of due-diligence in field investigations. In cases where the employee is suspected of faking an injury, you’ll need an investigator who knows how to hide in plain sight. Private investigators can conduct field surveillance in which they locate the employee at home or in the field and begin documenting their movements for the client. These surveillance operations can answer vital questions pertaining to the employee’s level of mobility, how much assistance they require with basic tasks, and whether or not they are behaving reasonably within the parameters of their alleged injury. Private investigators can take video, still shots, and write case narratives on what they observed during the field surveillance and compile this into a report for the employer. In another scenario, an employee who has submitted a request for FMLA leave claiming to need time to recover from surgery on his back. However, when the private investigator stakes out the home of the employee, they observe the employee carrying items to and from his pickup truck—items like lumber, power tools, and paint cans—too heavy to lift for someone who would be recovering from back surgery. The private investigator documents this with photographs and includes his observations in his final report.

Unlike employers, private investigators have access to a wealth of information through their licensure through the state. Employers are restricted to only the information in the employee’s personnel file and their application for hire. Using only a few key pieces of information, private investigators can have a subject’s entire history at their fingertips, including criminal history, job history, and address history. Private investigators also know how to comb local databases for any information pertaining to the subject. In one case, an employee claimed to need FMLA leave in order to care for his sick mother—approximately six weeks. The employer became suspicious when the employee never arrived to pick up the last check before the start of his leave. The employer hired a private investigator for an FMLA abuse investigation. The private investigator located the employee’s mother’s address, and after staking out the home for a period of days, determined that the employee was not assisting the mother in the home as they had claimed. Instead, after checking local jails, the private investigator was able to determine that a subject with the same name and birthday as they employee was serving a 6-week jail sentence and using FMLA to conceal this fact.

No matter what the specific circumstances of an FMLA abuse investigation, a private investigator is an ideal professional to carry out the operation. They are adept at hiding in plain sight and concealing their efforts to document fraudulent behavior by employees who have asserted their need for FMLA leave. Protect your business from this employee misconduct by calling Lauth Investigations International today for a free quote on our FMLA abuse investigation services at 317-951-1100, or visit us online at www.lauthinvestigations.com.

3 Most Common Types of Corporate Crisis

What is a corporate crisis? While exact definitions may differ, a corporate crisis is generally defined as “an event, situation, or public initiative that threatens the company’s ability to effectively operate its business. A crisis can escalate into a disaster or long-term impediment to business growth if not handled with efficiency and sensitivity to all involved.” This is a large umbrella that encompasses many of the internal issues we associate with companies, including (but not limited to) fraud, theft, misconduct, and harassment of all kinds.

A majority of corporate crises fall into one of three categories: personnel, systemic, and contextual.

  1. A personnel crisis is an internal issue that is a direct result of an individual employee or a group of employees’ bad behavior. Theft by personnel is one of the most widely-reported crises in corporations throughout America. The scope of this problem can be as small as stealing office supplies all the way up to executive embezzlement. Sexual harassment is a type of personnel crisis receiving a welcomed new level of attention in corporations. In the age of the #MeToo movement, corporations are viewing their workforce very differently when it comes to identifying potential predators in their midst in the name of a “pound of cure.” Prudent steps taken when vetting potential hires and current employees has saved companies difficulties down the line, especially in legal fees and public relations.
  2. A systemic crisis refers to a major breakdown in operations negatively impacting business. A common example is food service corporations that receive a sudden influx of food poisoning complaints. Source of the outbreak may be traced back to how the supplier or distributor handled the food product, and suddenly, there’s a systemic crisis: A misstep in operations led to a large sum of incidents. Systemic problems manifest themselves in many forms, including external theft. Repeated theft, both in cyberspace and the real world, is often the result of insufficient security within a company. Consequently, the company incurs loss because they remain vulnerable. Companies who have chronic turnover due to employee misconduct may have flaws in their vetting system for potential employees. That is another example of a crucial operation where a breakdown occurs and erodes a company’s profits with labor hours to hire a new individual to fill a vacant position.
  3. A contextual crisis has exponential consequences for a business relative to its size. These are the types of crises that companies cannot anticipate, because they influence public perception of their brand based on real-life events. A major news story like a mass shooting, or a major criminal case, or a lawsuit, can negatively impact a brand even if that event is not directly associated with that company. These external events can drastically change a company’s internal operations, and can weigh heavy on employees at every level. Sexual harassment is another example of this type of crisis in motion. The media coverage regarding high-level Hollywood executives like Harvey Weinstein and his alleged history of abuse have executives in companies of all shapes and sizes revisiting their human resource policies and practices when it comes to addressing sexual misconduct in the workplace. Internal operations receive a major overhaul to the benefit of a healthier work environment for everyone.

When it comes to corporate crises, not all businesses will be able to afford specialized investigators to work in-house to resolve issues that arise. Even if they can afford these professionals, investigators employed by the company—regardless of the quality of their work—by definition cannot provide a truly objective solution to any problem. Because they’re employed by the corporation, they have a potential stake in the outcome of the investigation, whether that stake be real or perceived. Hiring an independent professional, like a licensed private investigator, to conduct an external investigation is the best way to ensure that the solution is objective. This is particularly important personnel crises, because terminating personnel based on an unbiased investigation is kerosene for a disgruntled employee that can manifest itself with many devastating consequences—most commonly wrongful termination lawsuits. Private investigators can assist in systemic crises as well, like the example of repeated thefts with regards to security. Private investigators who specialize in different kinds of risk assessment can identify a company’s vulnerabilities to thieves and scammers, and provide them with a game plan to improve their security.

If your business has encountered a corporate crisis, call Lauth Investigations International today for a free consultation. Learn how we can provide you with an objective solution to your corporate crisis. Call 317-951-1100, or learn more about our services here.

Naptown Sleuths: Being a PI in Indianapolis

Naptown Sleuths: Being a PI in Indianapolis

indianapolis indianaIndianapolis, Indiana is home to many impressive things. The city of over 800,000 is most famous throughout the country as home to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the site of the Indianapolis 500. In addition to a rich visual and performing arts culture, it’s also home to the nation’s largest children’s museum. Families across the United States cheer for one of two major sports franchises based in Indianapolis: the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, and the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. It’s also home to one of the country’s best private investigators.

Family-owned and operated for more than 30 years, Lauth Investigations International has specialized in complex corporate, financial, and private investigations worldwide. It is one of many private investigation firms based in Indiana’s capital. Given recent crime data, Indianapolis is a city where a well of clientele may never run dry. One of the areas of criminal investigation most associated with private investigators is missing persons and violent crime, so it’s no a wonder why so many private investigators have set up shop in Indianapolis, with violent crime on the rise.

Relative to its size and population, Indianapolis is comparable to Portland, Oregon or Charlotte, North Carolina. Portland has a crime rate of 227 per every 100,000 people, which is lower than the national average crime rate. North Carolina experiences a higher than average crime rate of 441 per every 100,000 people. As of 2016, Indianapolis’ reported crime rate was 823.2 per every 100,000 people. A CBS News report ranking dangerous cities placed Indianapolis as the 12th in the nation, citing the violent crime rate at more than three times the national average.

News media is saturated with headlines concerning violent crimes committed against Hoosiers, so it was a surprise to most when the FBI reported crime was actually down 10% from 2016 to 2017, especially burglaries and robberies which were down 17%. Violence—especially gun violence—however, is climbing. As of October 1st, 2018, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department had investigated 127 homicides and 109 murders, with 12% of those cases attributed to robbery. The recent murder of Tykece Mike-Jones is a tragic example. He was killed over a cell phone he was attempting to sell to a person he contacted through the internet—another in a string of killings IMPD has been putting on blast to warn citizens. According to the FBI, 2017 was the third record-breaking year for crime statistics in Indianapolis, and stats from the first half of this year have projected 2018 will be no different. Law enforcement attributes the overall drop in crime to the increased ubiquity of surveillance cameras in the metropolitan area.

human traffickingFirms like Lauth Investigations International can assist in many types of criminal investigation. Just as in the case of violent crimes, private investigators combine the skills of law enforcement and the autonomy of a private citizen to conduct concurrent or independent investigations into a person who vanishes under any circumstances. But not all missing persons cases are the result of a person meeting a violent end. As “the crossroads of America,” Indianapolis experiences a moderate to high level of human trafficking. One of the most complex issues in human trafficking is tracking traffickers across multiple jurisdictions as they transport victims from city to city. Law enforcement can often be handcuffed by jurisdictional issues, but private investigators use their autonomy to pole vault over this red tape in pursuit of leads that might otherwise go cold. Due to his experience in complex missing persons investigations, private investigator, Thomas Lauth has worked with Interpol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Consulate and other foreign embassies on a myriad of cases, including human trafficking.

Indianapolis private investigators are not limited to cases of violent crime and missing persons, however. Every major metropolitan area will always have cases dealing with infidelity or child custody, but private investigators based in Indianapolis have ample opportunity to service local businesses with their skill-set. Indianapolis is home to a diversified body of businesses, but its five top industries are:

  • Finance
  • Insurance
  • Real estate
  • Rental
  • Leasing

Many business owners—especially small business owners—often are not aware of how a private investigator’s services can protect, or even save, their companies. Every business needs valued employees, and finding the right person can often be an arduous task. The candidate might be qualified, but how much about their record can be independently verified? Hiring a private investigator to do background checks for employees will ensure that any verification of their qualifications will be vetted. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, many employers are making independent background checks a regular step of their hiring process in order to weed out potential predators in their workforce. All types of business can experience the full spectrum of employee theft (from vanishing office supplies to full-on embezzlement), violation of non-compete agreements, and offenses under the umbrella of employee malingering, including FMLA abuse. The independent involvement of a private investigator in the investigation of any employee misconduct will lay a strong foundation for any HR or legal consequences, ensuring that the investigation is thorough and objective from beginning to end. Kristen Justis, the Managing Director of Client Relations for Lauth Investigations International, commented on the role Lauth can play in bolstering local business, “We have a wealth of opportunities to help private citizens every day. We help frantic parents find their missing child, or put a spouse’s suspicions of infidelity at ease, but those are the cases that sensationalize this industry. Many business owners are not aware of how the services we offer can go a long way towards extending the longevity of their businesses.”

Every major industry operating in Indianapolis can rely on the services of a private investigator to protect their business—not just from its own workforce, but potential consumers as well. Finance, insurance, and real estate of all kinds can benefit from a comprehensive vetting of a consumer after their request for services. Financial institutions and insurance brokers may check a consumer’s credit, but a full background check on an applicant can sharpen the big picture when making a cost-benefit analysis regarding any transaction. In the housing industry, any landlord renting or leasing their property can be fully informed about their tenants when they employ a private investigator to run a background check. An analysis of Indianapolis’s economy by the Indianapolis Business Journal concluded that the apartment booms the city experienced were driven largely by empty-nesters and childless millennials, projecting that it would only continue to grow.

Indianapolis already has a national economical reputation for developing and sustaining niche markets, such as the market around motorsports and auto-racing. As the metropolis continues to grow in population and economy, so will the opportunities for Indy-based private investigators to support their community.

Carie McMichael is the Communications and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. She regularly writes on missing person and investigation topics. For more information, please visit our website. 

Tagged: Geosocial Investigations in 2018

Tagged: Geosocial Investigations in 2018

geo-tagging

Surveillance capitalism has multiplied the number of eyes on us at all times. Ubiquity of security cameras, traffic cameras, and cell phones with cameras have made it possible for law enforcement to track a suspect’s movements for entire city blocks. And that’s not counting the omnipresent eye of social media, where photo and geo tags can assist law enforcement and private investigators with locating suspects, witnesses, and collect information about a location without having to leave the comfort of their offices in what is now called a “geosocial investigation.”

Before the age of geo-data on social media, employees who called off work on Friday to enjoy a three-day weekend in Atlantic City had no fears of being discovered on Monday by a nosy employer who checked their social media. When social media was in its formative years, a private investigator would be lucky to be scraping the social media of a subject who was indiscriminate about what they chose to post on their Myspace page. Nowadays, employees have to be more cautious regarding posts about their out-of-work activities than ever, with many employees maintaining two Facebook pages—a work Facebook populated by posts that would not offend the most fastidious human resource employee, and a personal Facebook where employees reveal themselves, warts and all, with no regard for who might see the pages. Now, the new reality of surveillance capitalism has changed the world of third-party investigations forever with the assistance of geosocial investigations.

Geosocial investigations are a subset of social media investigations, where the focus of the research centers around a place, rather than a single individual. After all, if you fraudulently submit an FMLA claim that prevents you from working, you’d be very careful not to post any pictures of yourself enjoying vigorous activities, like yard work or hiking. However, if you’re in a group of individuals—all with smartphones and social media profiles of their own—it’s nearly impossible to prevent all pictures of yourself from seeing the light of the internet. This newfound culture of hypervigilance and surveillance may sound like it’s harder for law enforcement and private investigators to squeeze blood from the stone of social media, but where individuals might be protective of their own information online, their friends and relatives may not.

Deriving information on a subject from the social media profiles of their friends and family is a major tenant of geosocial investigations. Exposure online is not limited to pictures. Social media widgets that allow users to check in at specific locations, or add geotags to the photos they post, are also exposing malingering employees during internal investigations. Law enforcement can use this technology to search for social media posts geotagged at the time of an auto-accident in order to locate witnesses. By the same token, they can use it to identify people who are posting in restricted areas where civilians are not allowed. The effect of this technology allows a private investigator to “crowdsource” the information, saving themselves hours of tracking down witnesses and interviewing them.

Geo-social investigations are just one consequence of the world’s newfound surveillance capitalism. As the technology continues to mature and become more sophisticated, social media will continue to expose criminals and malingerers. Employers will see a rise in the exposure of employees abusing FMLA claims. Former employees violating non-compete agreements will be exposed before they have a chance to get a new business venture off the ground. Law enforcement and private investigators will be able to crowdsource investigations with the use of geo-social data.

Carie McMichael is the Media and Communications Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. For more information please visit our website.