As if Covid-19 were not already a big enough challenge for your business, the FBI has a warning this week about something new and frankly a little depressing: trusted employees committing fraud by taking advantage of the current crisis.

The FBI's Office of Private Sector warned companies this week that it's seen multiple reports of employees using fake doctor's notes and other documentation to back up false claims of having been diagnosed with Covid-19.

More than simply trying to get a free sick day, the FBI warns, the nature of Covid-19 and the fact that companies will want to disinfect work areas and ask other employees to self-quarantine means that fake Covid-19 claims can cost affected employers lots of money.

"Ceasing production and halting delivery"

In the report, a copy of which was obtained by CNN, the FBI described an unnamed "critical manufacturing company" at which an employee told his or her bosses that they'd tested positive for Covid-19, and turned in "what appeared to be documentation from a medical facility."

"In response," the FBI said, "the company shut down the affected manufacturing facility to disinfect the location, ceasing production and halting delivery of necessary materials to the plant. The company notified all employees at the facility, including four workers who had close contact with the reportedly infected employee and were required to self-quarantine."

Ultimately, the employer became suspicious and realized that the documentation the employee turned in was bogus, the FBI said. 

However, the "victim company" lost $175,000 because of the lost productivity, according to the FBI.

Also, a co-worker who thought they'd been exposed to the virus because they'd worked with the employee who reported being infected lost money by renting an apartment, so as to stay away from family during self-quarantine.

Nobody said it was easy

The report on CNN also cited two other cases--a McDonald's worker in Canada and a South Carolina worker who both faced charges for faking doctor's notes.

Now, the fact that a few employees have scammed their employers by using Covid-19 as an excuse might be enough to prompt an FBI report.

But clearly it doesn't mean that most employees are dishonest, or that Covid-19 isn't creating terrible effects for many workers.

There are a lot more employees who are concerned about losing their jobs or getting sick-- or who actually have been afflicted with Covid-19--than there are people trying to take advantage.

Still, according to the FBI this just means you now have three jobs as a business leader:

  • Keep building and running your company.
  • Look out for your employees' health, safety, and well-being.
  • Be on the lookout for unscrupulous claims that amount to people trying to take advantage of a global pandemic.

Not that you ever thought this, but nobody said sitting in the big chair was going to be easy. Even less so during times like we're experiencing right now.