The Employment Court has ruled that Telecom unjustifiably dismissed a worker after questioning his medical certificate, which was issued overseas. What should you do when presented with a questionable sick note?
The company was found to have unjustifiably dismissed help desk worker Madhukar Narayan after investigating a medical certificate he presented.
Narayan took his case to the Employment Court after the Employment Relations Authority dismissed his personal grievance claim.
Narayan became ill after a holiday in Fiji and put off his return to work.
He later produced a medical certificate which his superiors disputed and he was dismissed following disciplinary procedures, the National Business Review reported.
Telecom said it was suspicious because the medical certificate was partly printed and partly handwritten.
A customer care manager and another officer called hospitals in Fiji to try to determine whether the certificate was real.
Judge Mark Perkins said that Telecom had adopted an “inappropriately suspicious stance” from the outset of the matter, according to the NBR.
“There was no real basis upon which Telecom could have finally concluded, as it eventually did, that the certificate was a fake and that Mr Narayan was deceiving them.”
Dundas Street Employment Lawyers principal Blair Scotland said that cases of workers forging medical certificates were rare, but they did exist.
“I am aware of situations where employees have essentially forged medical certificates. There was even a Chinese website that advertised, alongside university degrees, you could also purchase medical certificates.”
He said that if certificates had the right name and details on them, employers were unlikely to look further than that, but there were situations where questions were raised if the details appeared incorrect, or the name of the issuing medical practice didn’t seem legitimate.
Scotland said that if employers were concerned, they could look up the medical practice and ask for confirmation of the certificate.
“The first thing you would be doing would be going online if you wanted to check up – is this a medical practice, is the person who signed it a practising doctor? Chances are, it's probably quite legitimate.
“You could always email the certificate to the medical centre to check whether they issued it. The reality is that if an employee was silly enough to forge a medical certificate, it's a pretty serious criminal offence to do that. They could find themselves in a lot of trouble.”
He said that checking a medical certificate that was issued overseas, like Narayan’s, could be difficult, but an employer would need to have strong evidence to back up an allegation of forgery.
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