Telecom too suspicious about sick leave

SHABNAM DASTGHEIB
Last updated 11:51 24/06/2014

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A decision to dismiss a former Telecom employee over a contested medical certificate has been overruled by the Employment Court in Auckland.

Madhukar Shyam Narayan, a broadband help-desk specialist, took Telecom to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) claiming bullying and harassment, failure to provide him with a safe workplace, failure to safeguard him from violent attack, and discrimination, because the company treated his Fijian medical certificate differently to a New Zealand one.

The ERA ruled his dismissal had been justified, but that decision has now been overruled by Employment Court.

Judge Mark Perkins said Telecom acted inappropriately suspiciously from the outset. The judgment was published this month.

Narayan had applied for leave for the month of December 2011 but was only approved for leave until December 27, the court heard.

On the morning of December 27, Narayan emailed work saying "I seem to have caught a bad virus" and he would not be able to make it to work that day "or tomorrow from the looks of things".

He emailed again on December 29 saying he was "still sick as".

A team leader emailed Narayan asking him to drop off a medical certificate or offering to send a courier to pick it up if Narayan was too unwell, the court heard.

Narayan later said he had left the medical certificate in his Fiji hotel room and only provided a replacement on January 17.

A Telecom human resources manager told the ERA the certificate was "odd" as it did not have "the name of the medical practice that had issued it, or the stamp, or details, of the issuing doctor".

Telecom investigated further and was not satisfied that the sick leave had been justified.

Telecom had concerns that because Narayan flew to Fiji on a one-way ticket, he was always intending to take four weeks leave when he was only approved for three, the court was told.

A disciplinary process began that ended with Narayan's dismissal.

He then filed a challenge to that determination.

Judge Perkins said there was clear tension between Narayan and Ricky Henry, a team leader at Telecom.

"Mr Narayan and his advocate Ms Bali took what I regard to be an unreasonably aggressive stance in the process," he said.

"Having said that, it is understandable that following the disciplinary process they would have been frustrated by the fact that Telecom did not give sufficient credence to Mr Narayan's assertions."

Judge Perkins said a lot of issues could have been avoided if Henry had approached Narayan at the outset when he had concerns about the medical certificate.

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The decision said Narayan was not unjustifiably disadvantaged and though Narayan claimed violence and abuse, there was conflicting evidence.

All claims except for that of unjustifiable dismissal were dismissed.

Telecom was found not to have acted as a fair and reasonable employer in relation to the dismissal, and Narayan was awarded $7000.

- Stuff

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