Sick employee caught playing slo-pitch

Arbitrator believes worker’s story that he was feeling better after calling in sick and reinstates him; previous discipline was unrelated
By Jeff Fraser
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 04/03/2013

A technician who was fired by TELUS for allegedly faking sick must be reinstated, an Alberta arbitrator has ruled. Alberta Arbitration Board member Alan Beattie, Q.C., found insufficient evidence that Jarrod Underwood, 25, deceived his employer, even though a supervisor witnessed him playing slo-pitch several hours after he called in sick.

"I do not see sufficient reason in this case to conclude that the trust cannot be re-established if the grievor is reinstated," Beattie wrote in a decision that reduced Underwood’s termination to a one-month suspension and granted him 15 months' back pay. "I believe (Underwood), who is a five-year employee, can be a productive employee going forward and that he has learned his lesson."

Underwood was hired in 2006 to install phone and Internet service in customers' homes in the Fort McMurray, Alta., area. On July 3, 2011, he texted his manager, identified in court documents as Mr. Sartison, to say that he would be unable to attend work due to “unforeseen circumstances.” Sartison, aware that Underwood had been competing in a slo-pitch tournament earlier that weekend, went to the ballpark and saw Underwood pitching from the mound. Several weeks earlier, the technician had made a formal request to take July 3 off, but he had been turned down because no one could take his shift.