Ticket inspector sacked after private investigator saw him lifting weights

WRC upholds decision to dismiss man who was said to have a history of absenteeism

The man was seen lifting weights and running on the treadmill while off sick. Photograph: iStock

The man was seen lifting weights and running on the treadmill while off sick. Photograph: iStock

 

A ticket inspector was caught out by his own employer after a company-hired private investigator spotted the man lifting weights and running on a treadmill while out on sick leave.

The man, who was not named, sued for unfair dismissal and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has now upheld the decision to dismiss him.

The unnamed public transport firm sacked the revenue protection officer after finding he had abused the company’s sick leave scheme, which represented a breach of trust.

The man complained of neck and back pain arising from a workplace incident on May 24th, 2016 and remained on sick leave for a further 10 weeks.

WRC adjudication officer Eugene Hanly found the evidence of the private investigator was more believable and on the balance of probability, the man was lifting weights and running on the treadmill while off sick.

Mr Hanly also found that the man claimed sick pay when he was fit to return to work.

“I find that the company had discovered a very serious breach concerning honesty and integrity, trust and confidence. I find that the dismissal was substantively fair,” he said.

Substantial leeway

Noting the man was employed as a revenue protection officer, Mr Hanly said, “therefore honesty is particularly important and pertinent to this employment”.

The ticket inspector had a history of absenteeism and, according to his employer, he was given substantial leeway by the firm.

On May 24th, 2016, the man had carried out a braking manoeuvre which caused him to lose his footing. He reported he struck his head and back on an upright pole.

However, the firm said CCTV footage “does not support that position”.

The man was taken for medical assessment and certified for two days off work.

However, he continued to supply medical certificates citing neck and back pain and remained off work until August 5th, 2016.

Given the man’s history of absenteeism and the apparent inaccuracies around the May 24th incident, the company hired a private investigator to monitor his movements.

The private investigator said the man was observed driving to and using a gym where he operated heavy weights, up to 60kg, and ran on a treadmill.

Investigation

The company then initiated an investigation into potential abuse of the sick pay scheme.

The man was twice referred to the company doctor who advised lifting and running were not in keeping with physical therapy for such an alleged injury.

In his evidence, the ticket inspector said he was an experienced gym user. His GP recommended physical therapy and allowed him to use his own discretion.

He accepted he drove his car to the gym but denied using weights and running on the treadmill.

The worker argued that the sanction of dismissal was too severe and alternatives should have been explored.

He said his employer failed to take into account his years of credibility with the company.

The man was seeking compensation for his dismissal and has not worked since. He is currently seeking to qualify as a driver.