18 May 2012

Sacked for Submitting False Medical Certificates - Fair?

In a recent appeal decision the Full Bench of Fair Work Australia upheld the dismissal of a worker who was sacked for putting forward a false medical certificate after a period of sick leave.

Ms Tokoda worked as a customer service officer at a Westpac branch.   Upon returning from 2 days sick leave Ms Tokoda gave her manager what appeared to be a very basic medical certificate.  Suspicious, the manager called the doctor named on the certificate who confirmed that the certificate was fake - the doctor had not treated Ms Tokoda for over 2 years.

When it was put to her Ms Tokoda, who at that time was heavily pregnant, admitted to falsifying the certificate but said that she felt she had to because her manager was bullying her.  Westpac investigated the allegations of bullying and, after finding no evidence of bullying, sacked Ms Tokoda.  Ms Tokoda filed for unfair dismissal.

The Commissioner at first instance dismissed Ms Tokoda's application, finding that she had in fact falsified the medical certificate and that there was no evidence to suggest that she was forced to do it as she had claimed.  Ms Tokoda appealed.

The Full Bench of Fair Work Australia reviewed the facts and again dismissed Ms Tokoda's application, saying:

"This was a clear case of serious misconduct.  On her own evidence Ms Tokoda provided her employer with a fraudulent medical certificate and when confronted with the allegation provided a response which contained statements which were untrue.  The nature of her employment required that she conduct herself honestly."

It is important to note that Westpac in this case undertook the proper steps to dismiss the worker, even though the deception had already been discovered.  Inadequate process or procedure could have potentially resulted in a different decision.

National Workplace Relations Contacts: Victoria - Andrew Douglas, Principal; New South Wales - Tony Gooch, Principal; Queensland - Chris Mossman, Principal; Tasmania - Audrey Mills, Principal

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