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GPS data discrepancies grounds for summary dismissal

Submitted on Thursday, 21st December 2017

An employer, who summarily dismissed a worker for timesheet and GPS data discrepancies, has successfully defended an unfair dismissal claim in the Fair Work Commission (the “Commission”).

The worker was employed as a trainer/assessor and was required to travel to client sites. Given the nature of the role, the organisation held a toolbox meeting to clarify the policy and procedure for leaving work prior to 4pm and keeping calendars up to date. The employer also discussed the introduction of a GPS tracking system into company vehicles. The employees were notified of the reasons for introducing the system, including its use to validate travel to and from client sites.

Following this, the worker’s manager flagged an inconsistency with arrival and leaving times according to diary entries and the GPS tracking system. An audit revealed numerous inconsistencies of up to and over one hour per client site. Similarly, the worker was found to have arrived home before 4pm on multiple occasions without authority despite the same being a requirement communicated in the toolbox meeting.  In addition the worker had visited locations not connected with his employment and conducted unauthorised visits. The worker was notified of the allegations in a disciplinary meeting.  During that meeting the worker was summarily dismissed.

The worker submitted an unfair dismissal claim questioning both the reason and procedural fairness of the dismissal.

The Commission, firstly, considered whether there was a valid reason for the dismissal. The question of whether there was a discrepancy between the reported times and the GPS data was not in dispute. However, the Commission did afford the worker an opportunity to explain the discrepancy.  The Commission noted “despite there being a significant period of time between [the workers] dismissal and his unfair dismissal hearing, [the worker] was still unable to raise any plausible explanation in response to the allegations concerning the paperwork and timesheet discrepancies”.  The Commission concluded a valid reason existed.

In assessing the procedural fairness of the dismissal, the Commission considered the worker was notified in writing of the allegations during the meeting which led to his dismissal.  The Commission stated the process was “open to criticism” and further commented “it would have been reasonable for [the worker] to have been given time to consider and study the allegations against him in detail”.

Notwithstanding the procedural failings, the Commission was satisfied the worker had “not demonstrated that events would have unfolded any differently had he been given more notice of the allegations of serious misconduct.  There still remains no satisfactory explanation….the conduct complained of was clearly incompatible with the essential obligations of an employee to their employer and is destructive of the relationship if good faith and confidence between employer and employee.”

Overall, the Commission was satisfied that the dishonesty of the worker was grounds for summary dismissal and ruled in favour of the employer.

Under current employment legislation, costly consequences await organisations found to be recruiting, managing or terminating staff incorrectly. Attend our Managing Termination, Redundancy and Unfair Dismissals training to increase your knowledge of counselling and discipline processes, and how to best manage an unfair dismissal claim.

Written by Stephanie Beckett

Fair Work Commission Decision [2017] FWC 6195

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