Air Canada flight attendant grounded after false medical notes

Employee copied notes from previous absences but didn't actually see dcotor

Air Canada had just cause to dismiss an employee for false medical notes and had the right to investigate the legitimacy of those notes, an arbitrator has ruled.

The employee, a long-service flight attendant based in Toronto, took three days off from Oct. 1 to 3, 2011, for illness. Air Canada requested a medical certificate to substantiate the absence and the flight attendance eventually provided a note. The note didn’t provide any information about the doctor’s name or the clinic and only had an illegible signature. The note also appeared to be photocopied.

Air Canada advised the flight attendant that the note wasn’t acceptable and he said he would get another one. Air Canada reviewed his file and found he had provided two similar notes for absences earlier in 2011 — no information on the doctor or clinic and an illegible signature.

The flight attendant admitted the notes in question were not from the medical centre from which he had provided notes in the past, though the format was similar. He claimed the notes were from a homeopathic and holistic medicine centre that wasn’t used to giving out sick notes, so he showed them one of his older notes as a template.

However, the homeopath wasn’t a regulated medical professional and didn’t recall being asked for medical notes. The notes were issued by his office but he had no knowledge of them.

Air Canada felt the notes the flight attendant had provided were fraudulent, as the attendant knew what kind of medical documentation was required to support absences and notes from a homeopath were not acceptable. It believed he was attempting to secure sick pay with fraudulent notes and, on March 9, 2012, the airline terminated the flight attendant’s employment. The union grieved, arguing the notes were legitimate and the flight attendant’s good employment record should be taken into account. It also said the notes were from a “practitioner appropriate to his culture” that should be sufficient prove of his illness on the days he was absent.

The arbitrator found the flight attendant’s explanation for the notes was believable. The homeopath didn’t remember being asked for notes and had no knowledge of them. The lack of any notes corresponding to the flight attendant’s visits to the homeopath and the failure of a reasonable explanation supported the finding that the notes weren’t legitimate, said the arbitrator.

The arbitrator also found Air Canada’s checking up on the origin of the notes wasn’t a breach of the flight attendant’s privacy. The airline was entitled to confirm the legitimacy of the notes if it was suspicious, and it was entitled to investigate the source of the notes, said the arbitrator. The termination was upheld and the grievance was dismissed. See Air Canada and CUPE — Air Canada Component (K. (R.)), Re, 2012 CarswellNat 4278 (Can. Arb. Bd.).

Latest stories