Trigger Happy Boss to Pay Compensation

shutterstock_149999636-resized404pxThe 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”!

Travis Schultz
Managing Partner
Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers
Ph: (07) 5413 8900
Fax: (07) 5413 8958


Beware Spa Bath Regulation

shutterstock_36021790-resized404pxAs much as I enjoy spending my summer weekends swimming in the pool with my 6 year old son, I can’t help but begrudge the cost of pool maintenance and the hassle of complying with pool fencing regulations. And so it is that every time the chlorinator breaks, the pump stops working or I spend hundreds of dollars topping up on pool chemicals, I find myself thinking that I “should have just got a spa”!

And although the cost of maintaining a spa is significantly less, I was a little surprised to learn that the red tape and regulations surrounding spas are not really much less onerous than for an outdoor swimming pool.

Under the Building Act 1975 a spa bath is included in the definition of a swimming pool and, as a result, is subject to the same pool fencing regulations that apply to a swimming pool of any description.  The regulations are onerous and require not just child-safe pool fencing but self-closing locks and barriers on all sides.  As it turns out, there are no exceptions for spa baths which are located inside the home or on a verandah.  In those situations, any spa which is capable of being filled to a depth of greater than 300mm is required to comply with the same pool fencing regulations.  It matters not that the spa bath is in a bedroom which might have a lockable door.  The only time that a spa bath does not require a pool fence is if it is situated inside an ensuite or bathroom.

So I guess a tip to anyone who is thinking of building, designing or renovating is to make sure that your spa bath is located in an area that would be properly described as a bathroom or ensuite rather than being placed in a bedroom or balcony as it will save you the cost of pool fencing and the inconvenience of having to obtain certification that the fencing is compliant with the regulations.

Travis Schultz
Managing Partner
Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers
Ph: (07) 5413 8900
Fax: (07) 5413 8958

February Young Achiever – Jesse Woods

Young Achiever Jesse WoodsJesse Woods of Glasshouse Country Christian College was the winner of our February Young Achievers Awards. Jesse is a very talented student who excels in Maths, English, Science and Computers. He is also a great role model for the school being a middle school leader. Congratulations Jesse on your wonderful achievement.

Plan B “CB” Chenin Blanc 2012

Plan B Chenin BlancWhile I’ve never been a disciple to the sweet and floral style of white wine, I admit that everything has its place.  And while I would never countenance serving Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc as a table wine with anything I’d personally prepared, there are times when an aromatic white wine with high residual sugar is the perfect food partner, especially when spicy Asian meals are on the menu.  And at times like that, I reckon that the “go-to” vino should be Chenin Blanc.

Where some styles of the varietal are highly acidic and extremely dry, examples like the Plan B Chenin Blanc 2012 are all Chanel No 5 on the nose and delightfully sweet citrus and melon on the palate. There’s ample sweetness right across the palate, but the Plan B has just a touch of waxy acidity at the back to prevent it from becoming a flabby lollybomb.

It probably won’t work very well with pasta or rice, but served with chilli or paprika laden foods it will certainly support the flavours and take the edge off the spiciness.  I wouldn’t suggest drinking it on its own (unless you’re the type that likes your whites with a slight toffee apple sweetness) but well chilled, and with spicy chicken or seafood, it’s a match made in heaven…or at least, the Margaret River in WA!

At only around $21.99 a bottle, it should be a staple on the wine list of every Thai and Korean restaurant in town!

Our wine reviewer, Travis Schultz, is managing partner of Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers and lover of fine food and wine.

Changes to Facebook profile, even after you die.

Facebook has made changes to their privacy policy with regards to a deceased persons profile. Previously, only friends of the deceased could view the profile. However, after months of thinking and figuring out how they can best allow for loved ones to be remembered, Facebook have decided to leave the deceased users profiles as-is and will continue to work on how they can improve they way they deal with profiles in these situations.

Meet Adele Meredith

Adele MeredithPosition: Family Law Paralegal

How long you have been working here for? 6 and a bit years

How do you spend your time outside of work? I am undertaking a Bachelor of Information Studies, so most of my time outside of work is spent studying, but if I get a break from the grindstone I spend time with friends and family, and succumbing to my inner couch potato catching up with my favourite tv shows.

What is your favourite type of music? I will listen to nearly anything. I grew up on classic rock, country (my father), pop (my mother was an avid ABBA fan), and musicals (thanks to my grandmother), and my husband has introduced me to metal and punk, so really anything goes!

Shelton Calem Blue Shiraz 2012

Shelton Calem Blue Shiraz 2012When West Australian wines grace my table it’s normally the Margaret River Cabernet that grabs the attention of my taste buds, but having recently tried the Shelton “Calem Blue” Shiraz 2012, I think I might have to broaden my horizons!

The Calem Blue sits at the budget end of the spectrum, but shows the ripeness of quality fruit that you’d expect to find in a wine three times the price.  On the nose there are violets and carob characters, but on the palate, the dark fruit flavours take hold and turbo charge across the mouth before a fine pepper spiciness appears at the back end.

The structural integrity of the wine is surprising, given the relatively conservative price point. But there’s no doubt that the exposure to French and American oak and some gentle tannins have provided balance and texture to support the generous fruit.

At only $10 to $15 a bottle, you can overlook a slight bitterness that arrives once the last drop has passed across the palate and remember the lusciousness of cool climate flavours that were so elegant at the front.

Our wine reviewer, Travis Schultz, is managing partner of Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers and lover of fine food and wine

Get Prepared for New Privacy Laws

Privacy LawsRecent amendments to Australia’s privacy laws take effect on 12 March 2014 and will have a significant impact on any business which has an annual turnover of greater than $3m.  The changes that were implemented by the Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Act 2012 were intended to expand the protection of privacy that Australian consumers enjoy and to deal with community concerns regarding the handling of personal information by businesses – and especially those who do so in an e-commerce environment.

The changes consolidate and harmonise the existing National Privacy Principles and implement a new credit reporting regime and give the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner much wider powers.

In order to comply with the legislation, affected businesses will have to have a privacy policy and be able to demonstrate that they have taken reasonable steps to implement practices and procedures that comply with the new legislation.  Any unsolicited information that could not have otherwise have been collected must be deidentified and destroyed and where businesses engage in direct marketing, they must ensure that all individuals are given an “opt-out” mechanism.  The principles also require that organisations must inform individuals of the affect or consequence of offshore disclosure of their personal information.

Businesses won’t really be able to take chances with non-compliance given that the legislation also ramps up penalties for non-compliance as fines of up to $1.7m can be imposed on agencies and companies and up to $340,000.00 for individuals.

If your business is going to be caught by the new regulations, there is a helpful fact sheet online on the website of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner which can easily be found by searching “Fact Sheet 17: Privacy – Australian Privacy Principles”.

Travis Schultz
Managing Partner
Schultz Toomey O’Brien
Ph: (07) 5413 8900
Fax: (07) 5413 8955

University Responsibility

University ResponsibilityA tertiary education was once considered to be a privilege that would open doors and ensure students a long and successful career, but over the last decade, universities have seemingly shed their mantra of being educational institutions in favour of steadily transitioning into big businesses competing at both a national and international level.  Demand for places at Australian universities has remained high and that’s perhaps understandable given Australia’s enviable reputation for providing quality courses and similarly regarded graduates.  But as universities have increased their capacity, the number of graduates often exceeds the available jobs and I can’t help but wonder if universities now need to not only provide an education, but vocational assistance as well.

Take law, for example.  As an employer, I’m spoiled for choice as any graduate level job I advertise will attract dozens, if not hundreds, of applications.  Since 2001, the number of places in Bachelor of Laws courses has more than doubled and in 2012 there were 12,742 students graduating from either an undergraduate or postgraduate law course around Australia.  But with only about 60,000 practicing solicitors in Australia and a reduction in demand for legal services since the GFC, it seems inevitable that many graduates will never be able to secure a job in a highly competitive industry.

So having shelled out tens of thousands of dollars to obtain a degree, the unlucky students might be justifiably disgruntled at having to look outside the legal industry for job opportunities.

Limiting university places is probably not a palatable solution, as many students might be equally disgruntled at not being given the opportunity to study in their chosen field in the first place.  Perhaps then, it’s time that our universities looked to gain their own competitive advantage by offering degrees with vocational placement assistance as part of their program?

Travis Schultz, Managing Partner, Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers.

Connect with Travis via LinkedIn

Legal Secretary – Family Law

Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers are seeking a Legal Secretary (Family Law) to commence at their Sunshine Coast office (located in Birtinya).

Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers is the Sunshine Coast’s largest legal firm with offices also located at North Lakes and Kedron.

For more information on the firm, please visit

The position is full time and the successful applicant will need to have some previous experience in a Family Law support role.

Duties in this role will include:

•    General secretarial tasks
•    Diary management
•    Dictation
•    Producing and amending documents, including letters, faxes, etc.
•    File management, including opening and closing matters
•    Billing – preparing and issuing bills at the end of each month
•    Preparation of Court documentation
•    Preparation of Briefs to Barristers
•    Legal Aid matters

The successful applicant will:

•    have some previous experience in a similar role
•    have strong organisation and communication skills
•    have good computer and typing skills (with high degree of accuracy)
•    have excellent spelling, grammar and punctuation
•    possess a flexible and proactive approach
•    have a calm demeanour
•    be open to learning new tasks to increase their knowledge
•    be open to working within a small team environment

Working hours are 8am to 5pm with a 1 hour lunch break.   Start date – asap.

Salary will be determined according to the experience of the successful applicant.

To apply for this position, please forward an up to date resume to our Practice Manager, Wendy Faithfull, at