By Nick Hartman
An employee at a logistics company has been awarded $17,500 in compensation after the Fair Work Commission held that his dismissal, although valid, was incorrect.
Smart Company reports that instead of being dismissed for misconduct, the FWC held that the employee should be dismissed for poor performance. The employee’s failures were “mistakes” from a lack of due diligence, rather than being deliberate.
The logistics company had terminated the employee’s employment after it had discovered he had signed off driver run sheets as complying with the company’s standards, when the company’s policies dictate he shouldn’t have accepted the information on the run sheets as compliant.
When requested by his employer to explain why he’d been filling in his time sheets incorrectly, the employee said he hadn’t been trained properly and believed his actions in signing off the run sheets to be correct.
The employer thought otherwise, and subsequently dismissed the employee for breaching the company’s policies and procedures, and behavioural standards. In other words, he was dismissed for misconduct. An application at the FWC was then lodged by the employee.
The FWC found that the dismissal was valid, but also harsh and unreasonable.
The dismissal was “incorrectly treated as a matter of misconduct rather than poor performance”, and as such, the employee should have been given a warning and an opportunity to improve himself. The FWC also noted that not all allegations of non-compliance were raised with the employee.
Considering that the employee wasn’t afforded the opportunity to improve his performance, nor respond to all the allegations, as well as his long service and unblotted performance record, the FWC ordered the company to pay $17,500 in compensation to the employee.
Employsure’s Senior Employment Relations Adviser Michael Wilkinson said this case highlighted the need for employers to be careful in clarifying what is and isn’t misconduct.
“Accusing an employee of misconduct is a heavy accusation to make. You must have strong and clear policies in place, and of course it goes without saying that an employer needs strong evidence to back any claims,” Wilkinson said.
“The Fair Work Commission takes a dim view of employers they hold to have not conducted a fair procedure.
“In this case, they’ve held the employer had a valid reason to dismiss this employee. Even though they’ve said that, it goes to show that Fair Work have drilled down on procedural fairness of the dismissal.”