In a recent case before the Fair Work Commission, a human resources manager has been held responsible for failing to adequately prepare their colleague in the investigation of an employee.

The employee, who had provided over 30 years of service to K&S Freighters Pty Ltd, was called to a meeting with the area manager to discuss allegations of misconduct. More specifically, the area manager was to present evidence that he had misused a fuel-card and provided services without charge.

According to the company’s general manager, his instructions were to outline the facts to the employee and to gather more information about the misconduct. In contrast, the area manager said that he was told the decision to dismiss the employee had already been made. His instructions were therefore to take that action and to provide a letter of termination.

Valid reason for dismissal

In determining whether there was a valid reason for dismissal, Commissioner Michelle Bissett considered the company’s well-established policies contained in the K&S Freighters Employee Handbook. In her view, the employee’s use of a company fuel card whilst on leave and for an unapproved purchase of more than $800 in petrol, was in clear breach of the handbook and provided a valid reason for dismissal.

Furthermore, the failure to send freight with the appropriate paperwork and charge amounted to a direct breach of section 4.12 of the handbook. “Each of these actions were without permission and in breached of established practices.” It was also important that this handbook was adequately discussed and provided to all staff through online training.

Read more about this case.