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MAHB’s sacking of Sabah staff with ‘high’ medical bill unlawful
Published on: Wednesday, April 24, 2024
By: FMT
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MAHB’s sacking of Sabah staff with ‘high’ medical bill unlawful
Velarie Lesley Harry was awarded RM83,957 in back wages and compensation after her dismissal by MAHB was held to be without just cause or excuse. (Pexel pic)
PETALING JAYA: The Industrial Court in Sabah has ruled that the dismissal of an airport security assistant in Kota Kinabalu for racking up a medical bill of RM25,374 over 17 months four years ago was unlawful.

Sabah Industrial Court Chairman Indra Ayub ordered Malaysian Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) to pay Velarie Lesley Harry RM83,957 in back wages and compensation in lieu of reinstatement.

The award represents back wages of 24 months amounting to RM64,999 and compensation of one month’s salary for each of the seven years of her service totalling RM18,958. 

“At the material time, the company did not have any guidelines, rules or policy for unreasonable usage of medical benefits and/or limitations in the number of visits to panel clinics.

“Furthermore, the claimant has been utilising the medical benefits as provided for in the employment offer letter and collective agreements,” Indra said in an award dated April 8.

The court also agreed with the claimant’s contention that the domestic inquiry convened by MAHB had been done arbitrarily and without regard for the rules of natural justice.

The chairman also noted that MAHB had failed to call any representative from the medical clinics visited by Velarie to verify whether she had obtained non-medical items as alleged by the company. 

“It is trite law that the company bears the burden to prove that the claimant had committed the alleged misconduct and the conduct warrants the claimant’s dismissal.

The company must prove the claimant guilty and it is not the Claimant who must prove herself not guilty,” said Indra.

MAHB had alleged that the claimant was among several employees who had abused the company’s medical benefits.

The company claimed that it had conducted an analysis of medical claims made by employees in 2019 and found “rampant medical claim abuses” by those working at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA).

It said the claims made by these employees were the highest in the country despite the airport having only 480 employees. 

“Claims of 24 employees of the company, including the claimant, for the 17-month period from Jan 1, 2019 were unreasonable in nature. 

“Their total claims amounted to RM977,914. All of them were dismissed,” it said.

MAHB had contended that Velarie and her dependents had made “unreasonable visits” to clinics “as the dates were very close to one another, were for the same medical reasons and they had obtained the same medication in subsequent visits”.

Several employees had obtained non-medical items such as milk powder, diapers, vitamins, jamu, wet tissues and toiletries from panel clinics which are not covered under their medical benefits, the company added.

MAHB also said the claimant had refused to authorise the clinics she attended to hand over details of her visits to enable the company to verify her claims.

In response, Velarie said the clinic visits she and her dependents made were justified as they suffered from a variety of illnesses such as fits, gastritis, sore throat, skin problems, earaches and breathing difficulties.

Indra said it was “obvious that the claimant and her dependents needed constant medical care”. 

“This Court is satisfied with the claimant’s explanation on why she and her dependents needed to visit the clinics often. 

“It is of the view that the company had failed to establish on the balance of probabilities that the dismissal was with just cause or excuse,” he said.

Ansari Abdullah and Jason Daniel Balakrishnan Christopher appeared for the claimant, while KH Chung and Kate Ngu Khet Ying defended MAHB.

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