Judge Rules Man Shouldn't Have Been Fired for Going to a Bar After Calling in Sick
There was nothing in the rules that forbid socializing on a sick day.
On what felt like one of the last normal Mondays of last March, Colin Kane, a 66-year-old driver for a Newcastle, England paving contractor called in to work and said that he was feeling too sick to come in that day. That wouldn't have raised any red flags, as Kane was known to have a serious lung condition that occasionally caused him to miss his shifts. But later that day, one of Kane's coworkers saw him at a pub and he immediately ratted Kane out to their bosses at Debmat Surfacing.
What that guy could've done was wave at Kane, tell him he hoped he was feeling better, and go back to minding his own business. Instead, Kane's boss called to check up on him, and Kane said that he'd "been in bed all day with his chest." When he returned to work, he was called into a meeting with some of the higher-ups-including the guy who'd narced on him-and was questioned about his behavior.
During that meeting, Kane was reportedly told that he "shouldn't be in the pub" if he'd called in sick and was taking antibiotics. Kane admitted that he'd been out for 45 minutes, tops, but the company still said that he would be facing disciplinary measures for his decision to, you know, not stay on the couch all day.
The Daily Mail reports that John Turner, a managing director at Debmat, sent a letter to Kane informing him that he'd been found "guilty of gross misconduct for attending the pub on numerous occasions, consuming alcohol and smoking whilst being signed off on the sick with chronic lung disease/chest infection and claiming to be at home in bed."
Several weeks later, he was fired, which Kane thought was a step too far. During a recent employment tribunal, Judge Andrea Pitt agreed, ruling that Kane had been unfairly fired by Debmat both because there was no specific rule stating that workers couldn't go to a pub or otherwise be social on a day they'd missed work, and because she didn't believe the company's investigation was fair.
"There is nothing in the disciplinary procedure prohibiting an employee from acting in this way," Judge Pitt said, according to the Metro. "[Debmat Surfacing] made a gross assumption, without evidence, that the claimant should not be at the social club because of the nature of his condition [...] There is no rule [Debmat] can point to, which says that an employee cannot socialise in whatever way they deem appropriate whilst absent from work through illness."
Judge Pitt ruled that Kane should receive financial compensation from his now-former employer for the way he was terminated; a future hearing will determine how much he's in for. We'll assume he raised a pint after that judgment-and we kind of hope his former colleague saw that, too.