Wednesday 23 January 2019

FAI referee sacked after bosses discovered he officiated three matches while on sick leave

A referee's whistle
A referee's whistle

Gordon Deegan

An FAI soccer referee was given the ‘red card’ by his employer after his bosses discovered that he officiated at three matches while on sick leave last year.

In the case, the Dublin based general operative received €4,000 in sick pay from his employer during his six week sick leave last year before he was dismissed for gross misconduct after his bosses spotted that he had been officiating at three matches during his sick leave.

The man had worked for the multinational on the outskirts of Dublin since 1992 and sued for Unfair Dismissal.

However, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has now dismissed the man’s claim for unfair dismissal.

Adjudication Officer, Penelope McGrath said that the worker had misled his employer and wrongly extracted six weeks pay from his employer when he wasn’t entitled to the money.

Ms McGrath said that the man had abused the company’s sick pay scheme and that it was wrong of him “to dupe his employer in the way that he did”.

Ms McGrath said that the man’s employer confirmed that his actions resulted in a fundamental breach of trust “and I accept that finding”.

The man supplied a series of medical certificates to his employer over January and February last year which outlined that he was suffering from a serious chest infection and had flu symptoms.

The worker had additionally kept in touch with his employer on a number of occasions over that six week period, and usually by email, gave updates on what his Doctor was saying and regarding proposed Hospital appointments.

However, towards the end of the man’s employment at the Dublin based firm that provides air filtration systems, the company’s Managing Director, ‘AG’ found out that the worker had been making himself available to the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) as a linesman/referee for Senior Premier League Matches.

According to the WRC report, ‘AG’ believed that the employee’s ability to assist and referee at robust senior matches was not consistent with the perception of being chronically ill which the worker had maintained and created with his employer.

AG reviewed a number of recent FAI fixtures for the period of the sick leave and was surprised to note that the worker had made himself available for at least three matches during his sick leave – one which involved him travelling to the North.

On the man’s return to work, the worker was invited to a disciplinary meeting after he was told by letter “that on at least three occasions during your reported absence on sick leave you publicly demonstrated a level of physical fitness which directly conflicts with the basis on which you reported yourself unfit to attend work, and accordingly absented yourself from work, and claimed related payment under the Company’s sick pay scheme”.

The worker was called to the disciplinary meeting on March 15th 2017 and was told that he was being dismissed.

At the disciplinary meeting, the man said that the reason he had been off work was to remain at home to deal with sensitive personal issues relating to his wife and daughter.

The man cited a mistrust of his employer in not making these details known while he was off sick.

In her findings, Ms McGrath found that the worker “provided no substantial reason for this fear that he could not trust his employer to treat his private life with a sacred confidentiality.

Ms McGrath noted that the company had compassionate leave for such instances which is unpaid.

She said: “I do believe that the complainant’s family circumstances were very difficult and that he did the right thing in taking an amount of time out to be with them in their time of need. I do not however accept that it was a good idea to fabricate a reason to be away from the workplace.”

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