An ill employee who altered a medical certificate in
order to facilitate a return to work was found to have engaged in
misconduct, constituting a valid reason for summary dismissal.
Further, such summary dismissal was not harsh, unjust or
unreasonable despite inappropriate behaviour of the employer in the
events leading up to and following the dismissal.
In Jeong v Alpha Flight Services Pty Ltd t/as Alpha Flight
Services  FWC 4259 , the employee was summarily
dismissed for failing to comply with Alpha Flight's Honesty,
Integrity and Truthfulness Policy. The employee became ill and was
issued a medical certificate declaring her unfit for work. The
employee then altered the medical certificate so that she could
return to work the day before that prescribed by the issuing
The employee was subsequently invited to have a meeting with her
unit manager and a human resources officer. During that meeting,
the employee was questioned about whether she had made changes to
the medical certificate. No admissions were made by the employee. A
further meeting was held where the employee was informed her doctor
had been contacted and it had been concluded she had altered her
medical certificate in order to return to work early. As a result,
the employee was informed she was being summarily dismissed for
The employee had worked for Alpha Flights for over three years,
with a "largely satisfactory" record. The
employee submitted that to be dismissed for misconduct, she would
have had to demonstrate the certificate was altered for a
"wrong intention". The employee submitted that
while she did alter the certificate, it was not done with any wrong
intentions. The employee further submitted she was dismissed not
because she altered the certificate, but because of an ongoing
workers' compensation claim for which she had been placed on
light duties. The employee said that shortly after making a claim
for worker's compensation she was bullied and harassed by her
unit manager and that this contributed to the employee's
failure to justify her conduct at the meetings.
However, Alpha Flights contended it was "well -
settled" that an employee needs to be honest with their
employer during an investigation and that a failure to do so was
grounds for dismissal.
In deciding whether the dismissal was harsh, unjust or
unreasonable, the Commissioner held that while the employee's
conduct was not ultimately for her benefit, she had still engaged
in misconduct. Further, it was held the meeting notes from the
first meeting made it clear the employee had every opportunity to
reveal her conduct and yet chose not to. Commissioner Hunt also
noted that despite feeling intimidated at the meetings, the
employee was given ample opportunity to respond to the reason for
However, the Commission was critical of the employer's
conduct at the meetings, noting that the unit manager was
distasteful in sitting on the table while the employee was seated.
Furthermore, Commissioner Hunt noted that at the second meeting,
the employee had asked for a support person from outside of the
workplace. This request was denied. Commissioner Hunt opined that
where an employee requests a support person, even after the
employment is terminated, the employer should not unreasonably
The Commissioner ultimately held that the employee's
misconduct could not be excused even in circumstances where she
believed an early return to work would benefit her employer.
Accordingly, the dismissal was not unfair and the employee was
validly dismissed for serious misconduct.
Commissioner Hunt noted the importance of employers being able
to expect that "when they are provided with medical
evidence of an employee's incapacity, it is a document free
from amendments made by the employee", as the presence of
any such amendments may undermine an employer's confidence in
The case highlights the importance of employees being honest in
all their dealings with their employer, as well as the importance
of company policies when deciding unfair dismissal cases.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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An employer's duty is very high and can include engaging experts to inspect things such as stairways for latent defects.
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