Legal

Lying About Medical Leave Fatal to Disability Claim

By Jon Hyman

Feb. 9, 2016

On Saturday my 7-year-old made his first reconciliation. To what could a 7-year-old possibly have to confess? If you list the 10 big ones, lying would probably take the top spot for the 7-year-old set. It’s a life lesson, however, that some never seem to learn.



Case in point? Mattessich v. Weatherfield Township (Ohio Ct. App. 2/8/16) [pdf], in which a depression-suffering police officer was terminated for lying about his medical leave.



As part of his medical leave for depression, Officer Mattessich’s physician recommended that he undergo counseling. Upon his return to work, Mattessich’s supervisor asked him if he went to the recommended counseling, to which Mattessich responded that he had.

When his old symptoms returned, however, which impacted his job performance, he admitted to lying about the counseling. Ultimately, the Township terminated his employment because of the lie.



In the subsequent disability-discrimination lawsuit, the appellate court concluded that Mattessich’s lie was fatal to his discrimination claim.

Mattessich himself admitted in his own testimony before the Board of Trustees that he had lied, and other witnesses testified that they had heard him admitting to lying during a past meeting. While he now argues that he had disclosed counseling from his primary care physician when he was questioned about counseling, there is repeated testimony from other individuals and Mattessich himself that he did lie. Mattessich essentially asks us to find an issue of material fact exists when he has already admitted, under oath, that he lied. 

The employment relationship is one of trust. When that trust breaks down, the relationship is irreparably damaged. The surest way to break that trust is with a lie. If an employee lies to you, provided that you treat all similarly situated employees the same, you should be on safe ground in terminating, regardless of his or her protected class.

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at JHyman@Wickenslaw.com.

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