Problems With Sick Leave

Q. I consider myself a healthy, reliable employee. I eat right, don't smoke, and am rarely sick.

Some of my co-workers don't take care of themselves and call in sick all the time. Their unexpected absences place a burden on me and other dependable employees as we have to pick up the slack. Many of these employees seem to consider sick leave as time off owed them and take every day allowed even when they're not sick, no matter how their absences harm their co-workers.

I've talked with my boss about this but he won't do anything about it, saying he can't take disciplinary action as it's a medical issue. He won't even discuss the issue with HR or corporate officials to see if there are alternative solutions.

I'd like to talk to HR myself, but I'm afraid I'll get in trouble for going over my boss's head. What can do I do?

A. In most companies you can talk to your HR officer confidentially without your boss learning you've done so. Simply ask that your visit be kept confidential.

A good HR person might be able to help you with this situation without revealing your identity by suggesting your boss consider a paid time off, or PTO, system, merging sick with vacation leave.

Under PTO, all employees receive equal amounts of leave. Those who call in sick take paid leave, reducing the number of days they can take as vacation. Those who never call in sick can take all their PTO as vacation days. PTO thus creates equity for those who consistently show up at work.

Your boss also has a valid viewpoint. Your co-workers have the right to their sick leave, particularly if they take leave guaranteed by your company's personnel policies.

Unfortunately, your boss hasn't given you the sense he heard your concerns and possibly doesn't realize that some sick leave abuse can be fixed. Generally, this requires concerted action by employees, HR and managers, who all want the same outcomes -- that those who need sick leave can take it without unfairly burdening fellow employees.

Dr. Lynne Curry is a management/employee trainer and owner of the consulting firm The Growth Company Inc. Send your questions to her at

You can follow Lynne on Twitter @lynnecurry10 or through

© Lynne Curry, August 2013,