No sick pay for nurse with late doctor’s note

Worker didn't follow policy of providing timely medical note

An arbitrator has upheld an Ontario company’s decision to withhold sick pay from an employee who didn’t provide sufficient medical information backing up her absence within a specified amount of time.

Rosalind Dodds was a registered nurse in the dialysis unit of the William Osler Health Centre in Brampton, Ont., who suffered from back spasms from time to time. On May 19, 2011, her back began bothering her and she called in sick the next day, which was the Friday before the Victoria Day long weekend.

Dodds returned to work on Tuesday, May 24 and asked to be assigned to the isolation room, where there were fewer patients and raised stretchers that would reduce the need to bend and put stress on her back. She remained there the rest of the week.

When Dodds received her paycheque the following week, she discovered she hadn’t been paid for May 20, the day she had called in sick. She inquired about it and was told it was the centre’s policy to require a medical note for sick days on scheduled shifts immediately before or after a holiday. Failure to produce such documentation would result in the employee not being paid for the sick day. Dodds denied knowledge of the policy but her manager has sent an email to all staff in December 2010 outlining the details of the policy and a notice had been posted in the lunch room. The collective agreement also stated that a medical certificate “may be required at any time in order for you to qualify” for sick leave benefits.

Dodds obtained a medical form and made an appointment with her doctor for June 9. Her back was feeling fine, so the doctor filled out her form based on what she told him of her condition on May 20. Dodds returned the form to the occupational health department of the centre, but it wasn’t accepted. The union filed a grievance, arguing the centre knew she had back problems and the fact she requested and received accommodation when she came back to work on May 24 supported her illness claim.

The arbitrator found the doctor’s note Dodds obtained 17 days after her sick day when her back spasms had subsided was “not of much probative value.” Though she may have been suffering from the symptoms she claimed she was, the arbitrator found the employer’s policy required a note. The reason Dodds gave for not providing the note until June 9 — that she didn’t know about the policy — wasn’t reasonable, considering the employer’s efforts to inform its staff about it. The grievance was dismissed.

“(Dodds) ought to have known about the policy and therefore she must bear the consequences of not providing the note as required,” said the arbitrator. See O.N.A. v. William Osler Health Centre, 2012 CarswellOnt 8907 (Ont. Arb. Bd.).

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