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.