Dismissal of an Estimator who failed to maintain a company vehicle

Dismissal of an Estimator who failed to maintain a company vehicle

Dismissal of an Estimator who failed to maintain a company vehicle

The Fair Work Commission has upheld the dismissal of a building Estimator who failed to maintain the servicing of a company-provided vehicle and arranged extensive repairs to the vehicle without first obtaining appropriate authorisation.

The employee ‘JL’ had worked for Ballestrin Construction Services Pty Ltd (Ballestrin) for three years prior to his dismissal on 5 September 2022. Ballestrin is a multi-faceted civil construction company based in South Australia and is part of a parent group McMahon Services Australia.

JL’s work as an Estimator included preparing assessments of product needs and costs for the purpose of tendering for civil construction projects.

Following a performance review in February 2021, and at his suggestion, JL was provided with a company-maintained vehicle in lieu of his previous vehicle allowance. The vehicle provided to him was a dual cab Nissan Navara which had been used by a former employer and, at the time of handover, had been driven between 230,000 and 250,000 kilometres.

Under Ballestrin’s policies, JL was required to organise routine servicing of the vehicle. However, although he arranged to have the tires changed and the oil checked on three occasions, he failed to have the vehicle serviced during an 18-month period.

On Friday, 5 August 2022, whilst driving the vehicle home, he experienced mechanical problems. He limped the car home and parked it in his driveway. Over the weekend, he examined the vehicle in an attempt to self-diagnose the problem, but it remained unroadworthy.

On 9 August 2022, JL went to Rightway Automotive Services (Rightway), who he knew repaired out-of-warranty vehicles for Ballestrin, and explained that his company car was unroadworthy and needed repair. Rightway informed him that a tow truck was immediately available and that he needed to provide a purchase order number from Ballestrin to authorise the towing and repair costs.

JL then accessed the company software system, extracted a plant number for a different vehicle, and provided that to Rightway. Only certain Ballestrin or McMahons employees have the authority to issue purchase orders. JL had no such authority.

Ultimately, the car was repaired, and an invoice for $12,805.10 was sent by Rightway to McMahon’s Manager of Stores and Purchasing.

At no stage did JL inform his manager or anyone else in the company that extensive repairs on his vehicle needed to be undertaken.

Although critical of some parts of the subsequent investigation undertaken prior to his dismissal, Deputy President Peter Anderson agreed that JL’s behaviour amounted to misconduct. As he noted,

“The economics of repair of an aged vehicle required assessment. Mr (L’s) conduct in not obtaining prior authority and a purchase order denied Ballestrin that opportunity and was a serious breach of duty…The issue of the towing and repair of the vehicle was a singular subject matter that gave rise to dismissal, but the misconduct by Mr (L) was not isolated to one breach of conduct or on one day”.

Ultimately, in dismissing the application, the Deputy president concluded JL’s

“…failure to obtain prior authorisation and a purchase order for the expenditure on towing and repairing the vehicle, and in particular commissioning a new engine, was a serious breach of company policy and his duty as an employee”.

The application was dismissed.

JL v Ballestrin Construction Services Pty Ltd (U2022/9377) 15 February 2023

For queries about performance management, trainees and apprentices, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 925 529, 0417 622 178 or via email to dean.cameron@workforceadvisory.com.au

Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

Ref: 372.0823

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