Company fined after threatening to fire worker over allowance request

by Human Capital26 May 2014
A worker who asked for a vehicle allowance when using his own car for work duties has been awarded $3,381 in compensation after the company, Tuscan Landscape Company, threatened to fire him for pursuing the matter.

The company admitted to using coercion and breaking the Fair Work Act by telling the employee that he “should not expect a good outcome” when he asked about an allowance and that he “may be fired for causing trouble”.

Tuscan was also fined $9,000 on top of the compensation and two company managers were fined $540 and $550 for their involvement.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said the decision should remind employers that it is not acceptable to apply undue pressure to an employee querying their minimum entitlements.

The employee, who was based in Brisbane, had to use his own car to drive between work sites but wasn’t paid the 74 cents per kilometre allowance that he was entitled to.

After asking for a vehicle allowance and being turned down, the worker sought advice from the Fair Work Infoline and approached a company manager about the issue again.

He was told the manager would speak with his superiors, but the employee was told he shouldn’t expect a good outcome and “may be fired for causing trouble” if he took things further.

The worker was later told he wouldn’t be given an allowance and the only option was for him to keep a log book and claim the expense back on his tax.

He lodged a complaint with the Fair Work Ombudsman and when the company found out, he was again told that if he made a fuss, he would probably be fired.

The company and the employee agreed to resolve the complaint, but in the course of negotiations, the worker was contacted by a manager who told him that if he wasn’t happy with a proposed outcome, he and the company should “ go their separate ways”.

During this time, the company also stopped engaging the employee for casual work and when he asked about his employment status, he was told that his hours would go back to normal after his claim was resolved.

Judge Michael Burnett handed down the penalties against Tuscan at the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane following legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The employee was also back-paid his vehicle allowance.


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