Man off sick with ‘back injury’ went to gym
A MAN who was on sick leave after claiming he had a back and neck injury continued going to the gym, running on a treadmill and lifting weights of up to 60kg.
The man, a ticket inspector for a public transport company, was caught out by a private investigator hired by his employer – who dismissed him from his post.
The man sued for unfair dismissal but the Workplace Relations Commission this week upheld the decision to sack him.
The WRC ruled that, on the balance of probability, the man had been lifting weights and running on a treadmill as described by the private investigator.
WRC adjudicator Eugene Hanly heard that the man, who is unnamed in the ruling, had complained of back and neck pain arising from a workplace incident in May 2016.
He reported striking his head and back on an upright pole following a braking manoeuvre, which caused him to lose his footing.
A medical assessment on behalf of the employer, who was not named in the ruling, resulted in his being certified off for two days. He continued to supply medical certificates and remained on sick leave for ten weeks.
Video footage of the May 2016 failed to support the employee’s claims about the incident. In addition, the man had a record of absenteeism and the company decided to hire a private investigator.
The investigator reported that the man was seen driving to a gym and had been seen operating heavy weights and running on the treadmill. The man was twice referred to the company doctor who advised that lifting and running were not in keeping with physical therapy for such a back and neck injury.
In his evidence, the ticket inspector said he was an experienced gym user and his GP had recommended using the gym at his own discretion. He denied using weights and running on the treadmill.
He argued that the sanction of dismissal had been too severe and alternatives should have been explored.
The public transport firm said the man had abused the company’s sick leave scheme, which represented a breach of trust.
Mr Hanly ruled that the company ‘had discovered a very serious breach concerning honesty, integrity, trust and confidence’, and the dismissal had been ‘substantively fair’.