[Readers: It’s the first Wednesday of the month so it’s time for another West Coast Quirky Question. Tune in next Wednesday for the analysis of one of my colleagues in our Seattle office. Regards, Roy]
We have an employee who has been with us for the past 10 years. During the past five years of her employment, she has been absent the equivalent of five (5) years due to a variety of reasons. She has taken leave to address issues with her family (including dissolution of her marriage), depression, surgeries, stress and anxiety, and caring for her son. She has taken leave in lengthy contiguous periods, and intermittently. She has exhausted every form of allowable leave, using up all her vacation days, all of her sick days, and all of the leave available to her under the Family and Medical Leave Act. During this time, we have allowed her to take additional leave, contrary to our own leave policies.
Recently, this employee fainted while at work. When the paramedics arrived to take her to the hospital, she told them that she lupus. One of her co-workers was in the room when the employee disclosed this information, as was the employee’s manager. When the employee returned to work two days later, she allegedly told her manager that she had “lupus and fibromyalgia,” although her manager does not recall her saying any such thing.
Both before and after this fainting incident, we have given this employee multiple disciplinary notices for her excessive absenteeism. In the weeks following the fainting incident, the employee has continued to be excessively absent, and has not provided us with any evidence that her absences are related to lupus or another disability.
Yesterday, the employee met with her manager and presented a note from her physician. This note stated that the employee had been under his care since just before the fainting incident, for neck, arm and back pain, which he believed was related to an on-the-job injury two years prior. The physician also alluded to “a new diagnosis of a serious nature which may have been precipitated by the work related accident,” but provided no further information. The physician went on to state that the employee would need “time off for Dr. visits and blood draws periodically,” and that she would “require special consideration for unpredictable fatigue and joint pain.” The letter makes no mention of lupus or any other specific condition.
The employee’s manager wants to terminate her employment. What should we do?