MAN sacked for being fat had his unfair dismissal claim chucked out
A MAN who was sacked for being fat had his unfair dismissal claim chucked out.
Ranui Parahi lodged a complaint with the Fair Work Commission after being fired from Parmalat’s Sydney distribution centre, but it backed the employer’s decision.
Mr Parahi, a cool room operator, was stood down in February 2014 after completing a manual handling hazard and risk assessment with an occupational therapist.
The occupational therapist raised the alarm that he may not be able to work competently or safely.
After being stood down, he had to go to appointments and assessments due to concerns about his fitness and health.
At this time, he weighed in at 165kgs.
Fair Work Commission’s investigation into the unfair dismissal claim made by Mr Parahi, found he was too heavy to operate forklifts because he exceeded the maximum weight safety ratings.
Mr Parahi received a letter from Parmalat’s HR manager telling him he had to prove his fitness for duty before returning to work at the Lidcombe distribution centre.
“We invite you to consult with your treating doctor/s and provide Parmalat with a documented treatment plan on how you will achieve the level of fitness required to carry out all of the inherent requirements of your role,” the letter said.
“Parmalat will also require an estimated time frame for this plan to be completed.”
Mr Parahi stood down from his role with pay but when paid leave entitlements were exhausted, he remained employed but was not paid.
The Fair Work Commission’s investigation into the incident found he had suffered financially during that period but Parmalat expected Mr Parahi would take steps to lose weight and improve his fitness while he was off work.
The occupational therapist returned to assess Mr Parahi in February this year and discovered he had put on 10kgs.
A report from a cardiologist also indicated Mr Parahi had severe sleep apnoea, which could pose a risk when he operated mobile machinery.
Ranui Parahi was fired from dairy company Parmalat. Picture: News LimitedSource:News Limited
The occupational therapist decided Mr Parahi was only fit to do semi-sedentary work where he did not have to do any heavy lifting or operate moving machinery fulltime.
The HR manager wrote to Mr Parahi again in March this year and said medical evidence showed he was not fit to return to his normal duties.
“Please be aware that Parmalat is not able to hold a position for you indefinitely especially since it is now 10 months since you were last able to carry out normal duties,” it said.
“Given the information at hand that there is no positive prognosis for a return to normal duties in the foreseeable future, we believe it is appropriate to review your employment at Parmalat Australia.”
A meeting then took place in April to discuss Mr Parahi’s future with the company.
Inquiries were made as to whether there was an alternative role for Mr Parahi, like plastic cutting, but Parmalat made clear that plastic cutting was part of a larger fulltime role.
He was then officially sacked in May.
Around the time of Mr Parahi’s dismissal, he was getting advice about surgery to treat his obesity.
Due to his financial situation, he sought to access his superannuation early.
Following the surgery in June, Mr Parahi lost 20kg by the end of July.
It was expected he would continue to lose weight over the next nine months and his health issues were to be resolved.
Despite that finding, the Fair Work Commission found there was a valid reason to fire Mr Parahi.
The commission said it was sympathetic to Mr Parahi’s circumstances but were not satisfied with Mr Parahi’s case, which claimed the dismissal was harsh, unjuct or unreasonable.