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FWC: Sacking An Employee By Text “Unnecessarily Callous.”

press release
2/7/2019

A Fair Work Commission (FWC) hearing has ruled that an employer, who sacked an employee over text, as having a “disregard for basic human dignity”.

A security guard, working for AFS Security, was sent a text saying, “Effective immediately we no longer require your services”, by the payroll manager, also the company director’s wife.

After receiving the text, the security guard – who had been working for the company for an average 2.5 days per week – attempted to get in touch with his employers sending texts and calls that were unanswered.

Taking matters into his own hands, the employee drove to the company’s office and confronted the director’s wife where he was told that, as a casual employee, he was not owed any explanation for his sacking.

During the hearing, AFS Security’s director defended the sacking by text saying it was a ” generational thing, people don’t use emails these days”, adding that the company usually communicated to employees via text.

Commissioner Ian Cambridge, overseeing the hearing, found that the employer did not argue that or connect the dismissal to any serious misconduct.

Rather, Commissioner Cambridge found that AFS Security “believed that because the [security guard] was described and paid as a casual it could dispense with his services whenever it felt like it.”

“The true motivation for the dismissal” the Commissioner continued, was “something of a mystery…[and] as a result there was not a valid reason [for dismissal].

The Commissioner damned the employer for the “unnecessarily callous” method used to dismiss their employee, doubling down on the minimum expectations of employers under the Fair Work act.

The hearing held that a dismissal “should not be made by text message or other electronic communication…unless there is some genuine apprehension of physical violence or geographical impediment, the message of dismissal should be conveyed face to face”

“To do otherwise is unnecessarily callous.”

“Termination of employment is a matter of such significance that basic human dignity requires that dismissal be conveyed personally,” the Commissioner continued, adding that this should be the case

AFS Security had argued that they dealt with their workers with, as the Commissioner labelled it, a “significant level of informality”.

However, “even in circumstances where text message or other electronic communications are ordinarily used” the Commissioner doubled down on the need for a fair process, calling the procedure used “repugnant”, “unconscionably undignified” and that it reflected “very poorly upon the character of the individual or individuals responsible”.

The Commissioner found the security guard could have been employed for a further six months and factored that into ordering that he be paid $12,465 in compensation.