Virgin Cabin Crew Supervisor secures reinstatement

Virgin Cabin Crew Supervisor secures reinstatement

A long-term Virgin Australia Cabin Crew Supervisor has succeeded in her unfair dismissal case before the Fair Work Commission, securing reinstatement to her former position. However, as she was found to have some responsibility for her actions, the Employer was not ordered to pay for lost wages following the termination.

The female supervisor commenced employment with Virgin Australia in June 2007 and was employed for a period of 14 years until her dismissal on 11 August 2021. Her dismissal followed an investigation into allegations of misconduct occurring over the course of a month.

There were five allegations against her, including:

  1. Removing and misappropriating Virgin Australia food products;

  2. Occupying a seat on a flight when she should have sat in the airline’s jump seat;

  3. Failing to sign on for duty and arriving late for work on several occasions;

  4. Failing to sign on when undertaking observation training on two occasions; and

  5. Failing to be suitably groomed while performing duties.

Despite the supervisor refuting all claims, the investigation found that all five allegations were substantiated.

The supervisor was issued a final written warning on 28 October 2019 for accepting and misappropriating cash from a guest during a food and beverage service in June 2019.

The employee’s submissions involved claims that several staff involved in the investigation had a vendetta against her. She also claimed that she had a medical condition known to her Employer, which impacted her ability to attend punctually for work, and affected her ability to undertake her full range of duties.

It was noted that the condition had caused the employee to be recently absent from the workplace for lengthy periods, being 80 days in 2019, 226 days in 2020, and 14 days from 1 January to 5 March 2021.

While Commissioner Paula Spencer was critical of several aspects of the supervisor’s behaviour, she determined that the termination was harsh and, therefore, invalid. She expressed particular concerns that options other than termination were not considered, given the employee’s length of service and medical condition.

Further, as the allegations occurred over a short period of time, she thought it was more appropriate that the employee should have been issued with a warning at that time, prior to her ultimate dismissal.

As she noted,

“The evidence relating to those matters, whilst providing a valid reason (the Employer cannot condone disregard of this non-compliance with these procedures), they did not justify that termination was the appropriate disciplinary outcome. Circumstances related to the breaches were not adequately assessed. Alternatives to termination were not reasonably considered”.

In a somewhat unusual decision; however, whilst Commissioner Spencer determined that reinstatement was appropriate, the seriousness of the employee’s condition meant that she should not be reimbursed for the wages lost following her dismissal.

DB v Virgin Australia Airlines T/A Virgin Australia

For queries about allegations of misconduct, investigations, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 WAL LAW, 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.

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