"Beauty and the Geek" is an Australian
reality television show in which a group of male 'geeks'
are paired up with female 'beauties' to participate in a
series of challenges, with one couple ultimately being pronounced
the winner and receiving a prize.
One such geek was Adam Marshall who was, prior to his
participation in Beauty and the Geek, employed by the Bureau of
Meteorology ("the BOM"). Mr Marshall had been medically
certified unfit to work at the time that he agreed to participate
in Beauty and the Geek. The BOM found out that he was participating
in the show and terminated his employment, saying that if he was
fit enough to participate in Beauty and the Geek, he was fit enough
Mr Marshall claimed that the BOM took adverse action against him
by dismissing him because he exercised a "workplace
right". The workplace right relied upon was an entitlement to
the provisions of a workplace instrument, namely the Bureau of
Meteorology Enterprise Agreement 2009-2011 as varied under section
207 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (AE871544). The relevant part
70.7 When an employee is medically unfit for duty, leave of
absence with pay may be granted subject to available credits on
production of satisfactory evidence.
The case was heard in the Federal Magistrates Court in August
2012 and judgment delivered in November 2012.
The case addressed the extent to which an employer is obliged to
accept a medical certificate on face value and the extent to which
it can, in the light of other circumstances, choose to disbelieve
or disagree with it.
The court appears to accept that an employer is not required to
blindly accept medical certificates as proof of the facts described
in them. The court did, though, consider the certificates to
determine whether they constituted "satisfactory medical
evidence". It was satisfied that they were in that whilst Mr
Marshall was "medically unfit" for work, he was not
medically unfit to participate in "Beauty and the
BOM was found to have taken adverse action against Mr Marshall
and was ordered to reinstate him to his previous (or an equivalent)
position, and compensate him for his lost earnings since
It is worth noting that the medical certificates in this case
were very detailed, specifically addressing which parts of his job
were contributing to his inability to work. The court specifically
contrasted these certificates to, for example, "certificates
of the one line variety, for example, 'X is unfit to work from
A to B'".
It does appear that employers are entitled to query the accuracy
or applicability of a medical certificate where the circumstances
3 The BOM in this case failed to make the distinction
between Mr Marshall's unfitness for work and his unfitness to
participate in Beauty and the Geek. So whilst medical certificates
are not proof in themselves of the facts contained therein, an
employer should exercise caution before ignoring them.
1Marshallv Commonwealth of Australia (represented by
the Bureau of Meteorology)  FMCA 1052
3See for example the exceptional case of Anderson v
Crown Melbourne Ltd  FMCA 152, relied upon by the BOM,
where Mr Anderson had produced a medical certificate saying he was
sick, having purchased a ticket and flights for a football match on
the day of his 'illness', and having tried already to
obtain leave for that day, and told his employer that he intended
to take sick leave to go to the match and been warned against doing
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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