Three lies and no baby.
According to a Georgia Office of the Inspector General (OIG), a state employee informed HR that she was pregnant in October 2020. Seven months later, in May 2021, she announced that she had given birth. The employer later received an email from an individual claiming to be the child’s father and stating that the employee needed several weeks of rest following the delivery. As a result, the employer approved about seven weeks of pay under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
The employee would’ve gotten away with it too had it not been for
those meddling kids a co-worker who observed the lower portion of the employee’s stomach “come away” from her body.
More evidence of fraud surfaced during the Tummygate investigation. For example, the employee allegedly sent pictures of her new baby to various employees. These pictures were inconsistent and depicted children with varying skin tones.
The employee had previously reported the birth of a child in July 2020, and claimed she was pregnant again in August 2021. OIG learned that the State Office of Vital Records did not possess any birth certificate listing the employee as a mother. A medical and insurance records review did not indicate that she had ever delivered a child.
The employee resigned in October 2021, shortly after an interview with OIG investigators. Earlier this month, a grand jury indicted her on four felony counts: three counts of False Statements and one count of Identity Fraud.
The indictment only contains charges. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges, and it will be the state’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
Investigate claims of FMLA abuse.
Whether it’s fake babies, beers and speedboats in Mexico, or hitting up a beer festival, employees do some interesting things while on FMLA leave. But it’s not always as bad as it seems. For example, an employee’s trip to Vegas with mom while on FMLA turned out to be consistent with the employee’s reason for taking leave in the first place (i.e., to care for her mom).
So, when faced with these unusual situations of potential FMLA abuse, it’s important to investigate first before taking action. Courts generally agree that an honest belief is all it takes to fire a suspected FMLA abuser. So long as the employer genuinely believes in its reason for terminating an employee on FMLA — and that reason is not FMLA-motivated — the employer wins even if its reason is later found to be mistaken, foolish, trivial, or baseless.
Or, the employee may see the writing on the wall and resign.