The Federal Circuit Court of Australia has recently ordered an employer to pay compensation of six months’ salary to an employee that it dismissed for alleged “serious and willful misconduct”. In Miller v. Sunland Park Pty Ltd, the employee was the company’s general manager who had returned from an overseas business trip when his employer dismissed him instantly for using the company credit card to make personal purchases whilst abroad. After being summarily dismissed, the employee brought a claim for compensation alleging that he had been authorised on previous occasions to use the company credit card for all purchases abroad and to simply reimburse the company on his return for any expenditure of a private nature.
At the end of the day, the court preferred the evidence of the employee, finding that it was contrary to “common sense” that the employee would have been acting dishonestly given that his employer would have been able to see on the Mastercard statement all of the entries for purchases made whilst away. Having found that the employee had not acted dishonestly, it was found that the dismissal was not warranted and the “trigger happy” boss who sacked the GM without listening to an explanation or making any enquiries, cost himself over $30,000.00 in compensation plus the legal costs concerned.
From an employer’s perspective, the decision serves to highlight the need to act reasonably if an employee is to be dismissed and to ensure that proper enquiries and investigations are made before “pulling the trigger”!
Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers
Ph: (07) 5413 8900
Fax: (07) 5413 8958