Joburg Property Company exec ready to resume duty, but blocked by employer
Gauteng / 15 September 2019, 3:20pm / Don Makatile
A senior Joburg Property Company executive who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and booked off in July 2018 is being given the run-around by an employer who seems bent on obstructing her return to work despite a medical report by her doctor declaring her fit to resume her duties.
Before the nightmare cat-and-mouse game visited on her by the JPC, which manages properties owned by the City of Joburg, Puleng Kuhlmann, who holds an MBA and LLB, had seven people working under her.
Trouble started when she was diagnosed with refractionary depression by Dr Hina H Jogi of the Akeso Psychiatric Clinic in Parktown.
Her subsequent application to be medically boarded was declined - twice - as she was deemed fit to return to work after taking treatment.
The JPC is aware of the unsuccessful applications.
On May 15, Jogi then submitted a medical report, at the behest of the JPC, in which the pyschiatrist said she had a “good prognosis thus far”.
Almost 10 days later, the JPC asked Kuhlmann to “please be advised that we have sent communique asking further details to your doctor and still awaiting her response”.
On June 28, Jogi submitted almost the same medical report to JPC - only in bigger type - giving her comprehensive, blow-by-blow account of Kuhlmann’s treatment and therapy.
The report repeated: “Patient has a good prognosis and will be able to resume work on the 15 May 2019. Despite being a hard worker, having a positive attitude, patient has a good prognosis ... and an excellent response (sic) to therapy contributes to a favourable prognosis.
“I declare the patient fit to work and she can continue to be an asset to your workplace.”
Responding on behalf of the JPC, Tshepo Mokataka says: “The medical report and the sick letter, dated 15 May 2019, fail dismally to place the employer, in any meaningful position, to deal with the situation presented to it, especially the sudden return of Ms Kuhlmann.”
Attorney Craig Berkowitz, acting for Kuhlmann, retorts: “The obligations and the guidelines for an employer to follow when it becomes necessary to deal with the incapacity of an employee for reasons of ill-health are very clearly set out in Schedule 8 to the Labour Relations Act, as well as case law in regard thereto.
“For reasons known only to yourselves, you elected to not follow such guidelines during the period of our client’s incapacity for reasons of ill-health.
“Had you in fact consulted with our client, as you were enjoined to do by law, then you would have had clarity as to exactly what the situation was in regard to our client’s recovery, and when she would again be well enough (in the professional medical opinion of her treating doctor) to return to work.”
Mokataka says on behalf of the employer: “The JPC has not prepared for her sudden return. Ms Kuhlmann and her Doctor, have not placed the JPC in a position to do so.”
Despite Kuhlmann’s numerous attempts to return to work and her angst regarding her livelihood, JPC is of the opinion that she was not serious: “The lackadaisical attitude of Ms Kuhlmann and her Doctor to JPC’s request, displays a fundamental lack of appreciation for the impact her protracted absence has had on the business of the JPC.”
Contacted for more clarity, Mokataka says: “We do not wish to debate the merits of the case in the media. Accordingly, the matter is sub judice, in our view.”
All Kuhlmann wants is to return to work.
She writes in an email to Jabulile Santos of the human resource department: “It has been two weeks since the Dr has confirmed on 15/05/2019 that I’m ready to assume duty after my long illness. Please advise when I can expect to hear from you as to the reasons for this delay. I’m ready to resume duty.”
She is clearly at her wits’ end but it appears she is in for a long wait as the JPC does not want to play ball.
The company has not sent any representatives to mediation forums Kuhlmann sought.
Says Mokataka: “The JPC did not receive Notification of the alleged hearing. Information in our possession, indicates that on 14 August 2019, the Dispute Resolution Forum, to which Ms Kuhlmann referred her dispute, notified Joshco.
“The JPC was not aware of the hearing. That should take care of the reason for our not pitching up for the alleged hearing.
“JPC and Joshco are two separate entities.
"Service of process on the one entity, is not tantamount to proper service, on the other.”