Dismissal of Postal Worker upheld

Dismissal of Postal Worker upheld

The Fair Work Commission has upheld the termination of a long-term Australia Post postal worker who was terminated for repeatedly refusing to comply with lawful and reasonable directions given by his employer and engaging in misconduct contrary to Australia Post policies.

The employee commenced work with Australia Post on 20 July 1989 and was employed for over 32 years until his dismissal on 20 October 2021. At the time of his dismissal, he was employed on a full-time basis as a Postal Transport Officer and was also a nominated Health and Safety Representative at the employer’s facility at Eastern Creek facility in western Sydney.

Part of the employee’s usual job was to pick up parcels from the Penrith store of well-known electronics retailer JB Hi-Fi. To pick up parcels from the loading dock, he would either ring a bell to access a smaller roller door or sometimes the door would be open. He would then speak to JB Hi-Fi staff to facilitate the collection of parcels, which were placed on a trolley for him to transport to his van.

On 23 August 2021, following a complaint from the store, the employee was provided with a letter suspending him from duty on full pay pending an investigation into alleged misbehaviour.

The initial allegations were that on 18 August 2021, he failed to sign into the store using the necessary QR code as required by COVID-19 restrictions, failed to wear a face mask, and engaged in inappropriate discussions with staff regarding pandemic conspiracy theories.

Despite being given a clear direction not to approach JB Hi-Fi staff about the complaint, he attended the store on both the 20 and 23 August 2021, spoke to staff, and had further conversations about COVID-19.

On October 2021, he was dismissed on the grounds of engaging in ‘serious and wilful misconduct’.

In submissions before Commissioner Alana Matheson, the employee refuted the allegations suggesting that there had been no directions given to him concerning pandemic protocols, that, in any case, the protocols did not apply to him as he did not enter the premises, and that he did not engage in inappropriate discussions with store staff. Further, he suggested that his employer could not prove he was the driver of the van on the day in question.

Commissioner Matheson accepted the arguments that the employee had failed to follow lawful directions in returning to the store. As she noted,

In the context of this matter, a customer of the Respondent, JB Hi-Fi, had made a complaint about the Applicant. The Applicant’s Facility Manager, Mr Bucksath, was made aware of the complaint, raised it with the Applicant verbally on 20 August 2021 and asked him not to return to the JB Hi-Fi Store or engage in a conversation about the complaint with JB Hi-Fi staff members. The Applicant was otherwise free to go about his daily run, albeit it with one less customer to attend to …I find that the directions given by Mr Bucksath on Friday, 20 August 2021 that the Applicant not return to the JB Hi-Fi Store and not speak to JB Hi-Fi staff members about the complaint were both lawful and reasonable”.

In returning to the store for a second time, despite being under suspension, was described by the Commissioner in the following terms,

“Indeed, the Applicant was so resolute in his determination not to follow the lawful and reasonable directions of Mr Bucksath that even the threat of police notification if he dove the vehicle off the premises did not deter him from doing so”.

Ultimately, in summarising the employee’s behaviour, Commissioner Matheson noted,

“While the Applicant had a long tenure and satisfactory performance history across that tenure, this does not outweigh the Applicant’s misconduct in failing to comply with the reasonable and lawful directions of his employer on multiple occasions”.

Commissioner Matheson did not feel it was necessary to review whether the initial complaints would have warranted dismissal.

The application was dismissed.

PK v Australian Postal Corporation [2022] FWC 1739 (5 July 2022)

For queries about misconduct allegations, lawful and reasonable directions, safety matters, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 0417 622 178, 1300 925 529 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.

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