It might be a breakfast bar at your startup, or a fitness center at corporate headquarters, or simply an education-incentive plan that helps you develop your passions and interests, but nearly every employee knows that workplace benefits are part of what make good jobs worth keeping.

In a few cases, however, even the best of us can get a bit carried away.

1. Long-Distance Delivery.

Family and medical leave is a big deal for almost anyone. Except maybe in this case. John C. Garner, an employee-benefits consultant, tells of an airline employee who took FMLA time with the understanding that he’d attend his pregnant wife’s delivery. “The next day he flew from Seattle to Atlanta to pick up a car he had left there,” Garner said. “He spent the next few days driving from Atlanta to Seattle, during which time his wife gave birth. He claimed it was legitimate FMLA leave because he called his wife every day to check on her. Ultimately, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said that was not a legitimate use of FMLA.”

2. The Pizza Pupil.

Startups see their share of ambitious employees. Brian Selander, executive vice president at The Whistle, however, remembers one that still stands out. “We had an MBA that worked for us, in our last company, who said he managed to turn what was supposed to be a small stipend … into almost an entire college education.” The employee worked for a major pizza chain in the U.S., and the deal was that his company would pay for a class or two at a time. “But he also realized that [one online university] would let you push through entire classes in a matter of weeks, and then immediately start another one,” Selander said. “That meant he could meet the ‘one or two classes at a time’ requirement while still getting reimbursed for a dozen classes a year … He said they’ve since changed the policy… but he was only a class or two away from a full degree by that point.”

3. From Vacation to VP.

Sometimes, it’s not about getting away with something, it’s about getting ahead. “Royce Leather had a unique situation in which one of our employees … used his vacation time to come to work,” said Andrew Bauer, the business’s CEO. “As he was extremely eager to be promoted in the company, he spent two weeks coming into work to learn how to do our vice president of sales’s job. While he is still our customer-service manager, when we do have an opening for our vice president of sales, I have promised him that he will be the first one lined up for the job!”

So, here’s one possible bottom line: just as employers expect their workers to give as much as they can, when it comes to projects and tasks, many also anticipate that employees will occasionally push the envelope on what the workplace can do for them. It’s a fine line between getting the most for your time and going too far.

If you’re going to walk that line, take note of these three tales. And maybe aim to game your benefits in the direction of our next corporate vice president’s example, by putting your creative use of perks to some truly career-advancing work.

 

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