A former Telus employee’s termination for lying about being sick and instead taking the day off to play in a softball tournament was recently upheld by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.
Sickness and Softball Don’t Mix
Jarrod Underwood was a five-year employee of Telus. He asked to get one of his regularly scheduled shifts off in order to play in a softball tournament, but the request was denied because no other employees were available to take his shift. The morning of the tournament, Mr. Underwood told his manager that he would be missing work due to “unforeseen circumstances.” Knowing about the softball tournament and suspicious of his absence due to his prior request to have the day off, the manager went to the ballpark, where he saw Mr. Underwood pitching in the tournament.
When Mr. Underwood’s manager confronted him about the incident, he admitted to playing softball, but claimed that he missed work due to suffering food poisoning. He insisted that, while he was too sick to work, he was well enough to participate in the softball tournament. As a result of the incident, Telus terminated Mr. Underwood’s employment, claiming that the trust relationship had been irreparably damaged by his dishonesty.
Court Decides Employee Fired After Calling In Sick
The matter was taken to arbitration, where the arbitrator accepted the employee’s explanation that he was too ill to work that day, but that he was still well enough to play softball due to being able to appropriately manage his illness from the ballpark but not the workplace. The arbitrator ordered Telus to reinstate Mr. Underwood with a 30-day suspension. Telus appealed to the Court of Queen’s Bench, which overturned the arbitrator’s decision. The Court found that Mr. Underwood’s version of events defied “logic and common sense,” and ruled that the arbitrator’s conclusion that the employee was actually sick was unreasonable. Given that the employee had lied to his employer about being sick, the trust relationship was indeed irreparably damaged. The Court thus upheld Mr. Underwood’s termination. It goes to show that in certain cases, an employee can be fired after calling in sick.
This post was guest-authored by Nathan Rayan.