An international freight company has been ordered to pay compensations to a worker found to have been unfairly dismissed for playing golf while on restricted duties for a back injury.
CT Freight, a 37-year-old international freight forwarding company with offices in six Australian cities as well as in New Zealand, Singapore and the US, was found to have unfairly terminated the employment of Trevor Moody, a former warehouse supervisor.
Mr Moody also operated a trucking company that was regularly used by CT Freight.
In making its original finding in August 2017, the Fair Work Commission heard that Mr Moody suffered a back/hip injury and was absent from work until 25 August 2016, at which time he resumed only limited hours and restricted duties for another three months.
Mr Moody then lodged a second worker’s compensation claim for a hernia injury in April 2017.
However, a week later, the company questioned Mr Moody about having played golf during the period he was working restricted duties in 2016, and produced an article from a local newspaper as proof.
The company subsequently terminated Mr Moody on the grounds that he had deliberately hindered his return to work.
Mr Moody complained that his dismissal was unfair, and stated that he had “made every effort to return to work as soon as possible”, including regular medical and physiotherapy sessions and that “in no way has playing a modified style of golf impacted on my physical recovery”.
The commission sided with Mr Moody, finding his dismissal had in fact been “harsh and unreasonable”, noting that he had not been subject to any previous performance concerns during his six years of employment with CT Freight. Yet it held over a verdict on an effective remedy until this month.
After taking into account a five-week termination payment already made and the fact that Mr Moody continues to receive worker’s compensation from the company’s insurance, the commission ordered CT Freight to pay compensation of $6,408 within 21 days.
“I am satisfied Mr Moody had a reasonable expectation of being employed by CT Freight for a further period of at least 12 months, if not longer, at the time at the time he was dismissed,” the commissioner said in handing down his finding.
“No issues were raised about his work performance during his six years of employment, and the evidence indicates he was generally regarded as a valued employee. In addition, the injuries he sustained at work, while serious, were not necessarily long-term or career ending.”
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