Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues--everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.

A reader asks:

My company hired a person to start in January as a sales development rep. At the time, he told me he lived about an hour and a half away, but he'd be moving to be closer to work shortly.

A few weeks in, he called me and told me he was going through some family issues. His wife had been diagnosed with a serious illness and was not able to watch their two young kids on her own in case something were to happen to her. He told me that being an hour and half away from his family wasn't going to work for him. I'm a family-first person, so I worked out a temporary solution for him to work from home. He then told me it was tough for him to get his work done because he was taking care of the kids. We worked out a schedule for him to do some of his work after his kids went to bed and when they napped.

Each week, he would fail to get all of his work done and came with family excuses, including that his wife was in the hospital. A few months in, I told him this wasn't working because he wasn't able to manage both situations and he needed to be with his family. He then went on PTO. All along, he kept telling me that this would be temporary and once his wife was recovered, he'd be back.

Eventually, we agreed that he could no longer work here and take care of his family and he gave notice. Soon after that, I noticed on his LinkedIn page that he has had another company listed as his employer since this January. I was confused and thought maybe he had already found a job where he lived and he fudged his start date to eliminate a gap in employment since he didn't list my organization at all. I was curious, so I called the HR department at his new company and they verified a start date of mid-January.

I was floored. The whole time he was working for us and we were trying to accommodate him, he was working another full-time job during the same hours. What recourse does my company have (if any) to recoup his salary?

Green responds:

You're not likely to be able to recoup his salary. It's not against the law to work two jobs at once, and it's not against the law to be a bad employee. 

You tried to be kind and accommodating with someone who told you he was in a difficult personal situation, and he took advantage of that. But this is probably not money you can recover, and your efforts to get it back might end up costing far more than it would be worth.

Of course, it never hurts to talk to a lawyer anyway if you're curious! But make sure you don't throw good money after bad, especially if it's just the principle of the thing that's driving you.

I'm curious to know how this all happened though! Was he giving both of the jobs a shot at one point and planning to jettison one of them once he'd settled on the one he liked best? Was there a point where he really thought he could do both at once? Or was it nothing more than a scam all along -- he got two job offers and figured he might as well accept both and get paid for both as long as he could? Is there a third company out there that he's still "working" for?

The situation is particularly unfortunate because the next time a new employee is in a bad situation and needs special accommodations to help them through it, this situation is going to be on your mind -- and you might extend that person less grace because of what this guy did.

With remote work so much more prevalent than it used to be, employers are seeing more of this. If you could go back and do this over again, I'd advise you to talk to the employee earlier on about the utter lack of work you were seeing. It's good to cut people slack when they're in hard situations, but especially with a new employee whom you don't yet know well, I'd be wary when you're seeing no work at all. That doesn't mean the person needs to be at 100 percent -- humans can't always do that and people do have genuine crises that you'll need to accommodate -- but when a new employee isn't giving you much at all, that's a sign you've got to revisit what might be going on.

Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to alison@askamanager.org.