By The Editor
A bank customer service officer’s dismissal for providing her employer with a forged medical certificate has been upheld, after a Fair Work Australia Commissioner found she had a “continued lack of regard for the truth”.
The employee was absent from work for a week in September 2011 and provided her employer with a document purporting to be a medical certificate.
However the document did not include the doctor’s Provider Number and a subsequent phone call confirmed she had not visited the doctor’s surgery since 2009.
After initially denying the allegation of falsifying the document, the employee admitted the following week she had forged the certificate, but said she only did so because she was being bullied by her boss and the branch manager, who were allegedly not allocating breaks on a fair or consistent basis and had treated her unfairly.
The bank’s Area Manager conducted an investigation into the bullying claims and considered the falsified medical certificate, and concluded the employee’s conduct had been dishonest and no other staff member could have trust and confidence in her. She was then summarily dismissed for serious misconduct.
Considering the employee’s unfair dismissal appeal, Commissioner Barbara Deegan ruled that the evidence about the employee’s bullying claim was unconvincing, as she had only made one call to the HR area (about being instructed to take a shorter morning break) before falsifying the medical certificate.
“I have no doubt that the (employee) believed that, at times, she was being treated unfairly….(however) her evidence was contradictory and her story changed whenever she was shown that her version was not supported by the evidence,” Commissioner Deegan said.
Working in her position at a bank required “the highest standards of honesty and integrity”, but her conduct in falsifying the certificate, initially denying the allegation and in evidence at the Fair Work Australia hearing meant the employer had “no other option” but to terminate her employment, Commissioner Deegan ruled.
This is a practical and sound decision, however cases with broadly similar circumstances have not been successfully upheld in the past – employers must exercise caution in considering the individual circumstances of each case.