Woman Wins Lawsuit Against Woolworths After Being Fired Over Questionable Sick Note

A Woolworths employee who was fired after providing two’suspicious medical certificates’ won her appeal in Johannesburg’s Labour Appeal Court, where it was determined that her dismissal was unfair.

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) concluded that Lorain Maseko’s dismissal was fundamentally unjust.

Woolworths attempted to review the finding at the Labour Court, but were unsuccessful. They then appealed to the Labour Court’s Appeal Division, but lost their legal case again.

Maseko provided a medical certificate to her employer in June 2018, issued by Dr. Frempong.

Following the submission, her employer checked her personnel file and discovered that another medical certificate had been granted by the same doctor in March 2016.

When questioned about the medical certificates, Maseko stated that they were not from the same doctor.

Her company, however, was unconvinced after receiving an email warning them about questionable medical certificates given by Dr. Frempong.

An investigation was conducted, and Maseko was charged with misconduct (for violating business norms and procedures by producing irregular medical certifications to justify her absence from work). She was found guilty and subsequently terminated.

Maseko claimed that the medical certificate she received in 2018 was from Dr Frempong, but the one she handed over in March 2016 was from another doctor, Dr Zanele.

Investigations by Maseko’s boss and coworker found that Zanele was a nursing assistant to Dr Frempong, who appeared to have performed two procedures in distinct places.

They visited Dr. Frempong’s surgery and reported seeing patients enter and exit in less than a minute with medical certificates, concluding that patients were “buying” fraudulent medical certificates.

Based on their observations, they decided that Dr. Frempong may not be a legitimate doctor and suspected him of selling phony medical certifications.

Dr. Frempong stated at the CCMA that he had his medical degree from Cambridge University in England. He is a fellow of the College of Surgeons with further qualifications in obstetrics and gynaecology.

He stated that he worked as a brain surgeon in England, America, and Saudi Arabia before being recruited to South Africa to serve as a neurosurgery lecturer at Medunsa.

Explaining who Zanele was, he revealed that he had two offices, one of which he employs a lady named Zanele, who has been with him for ten years and works as his assistant.

He stated that Zanele looked after his second practice and would contact him whenever he got a patient. Zanele learned about patient management and therapy during her ten years of working with him. When a patient required immediate care and he was unavailable, she would direct the patient to the hospital.

The CCMA determined that there was no proof that Maseko was unwell when she saw the doctor in March 2016 and June 2018.

During the appeal, it was determined that the information presented by the two investigators that suspicious things were happening in the doctor’s medical practice, even if true, was immaterial.

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