Mental Health Day or Beer and a Ball Game?

i had an employee who called in sick friday, but when i went to the store during my lunch break, i saw her purchasing some beer and was dressed like she could be going to a ball game. she saw me and sheepishly said she "needed a mental health day."  i am at a loss as to how to handle this. if she was going to a ball game, she was taking advantage of our sick leave policy. if she did need a "mental health day," she seemed to be using alcohol to cope with some stress or other mental issues.


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  • My first question would be what kind of employee is she aside from this incident? Is this the first thing she's done (that you know of) like this? Is she usually dependable/does she do good work?

    If you really think it's likely that the fact she was buying beer means she has some mental issues (which I wouldn't assume unless I had other reasons to believe she may have a problem, which maybe you do) then I would discuss it with her and remind her of the availability of your EAP (assuming you have one).

    But if she's otherwise been a good employee, I would go with the most likely scenario (that I'd believe to be true without further evidence): She didn't feel like coming to work for whatever reason and felt she needed a break and she lied about why.  Then she was careless enough to go to a grocery store which, apparently, wasn't too far from the workplace.  She did something she shouldn't have and got caught.  I would simply give her some sort of disciplinary warning that you deem appropriate and leave it at that.  Having it in writing and in her file might be a good idea just in case she did it again--but it doesn't sound like it warrants a response more heavy-handed than that.


  • Hi--Sorry that you have to deal with this.  I wanted to mention that situations like this one helped build a case for our company switching from a traditional attendance-tracking system where we kept sick and vacation time separate to a PTO system. 

    Under our system, an employee doesn't have to call in "sick" when he or she actually just doesn't feel like coming to work for whatever reason (stress, exhaustion).  With a PTO system, any day off comes out of your overall available days--there is no need to designate the reason you are taking a day off. It may have saved her the embarassment of getting "caught' and eliminated your current dilemma.

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