Worker wins compensation despite misusing funds

by Iain Hopkins28 Feb 2013

A former University of Newcastle professor has won compensation after the Fair Work Commission ruled his dismissal was harsh – he was dismissed in February last year for alleged serious misconduct.

Following an investigation the university found Jesse Sheng Jin had misappropriated funds awarded for research, instead using the money to fund air fares, wine, massage and reflexology, cosmetics, clothes, shoes, a camera, a noodle maker, speaker systems, groceries, bedding and tourist attraction tickets.

The academic had been involved in high-level research designed to achieve early diagnosis of diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's – yet Jin was found to have inappropriately obtained reimbursement for expenses supposedly related to the research.

In his judgment, Commission deputy president Greg Smith found that Professor Jin genuinely believed he was entitled to spend the money, and that many of the expenses were consistent with grant guidelines. Smith quoted Jin in an earlier investigation as having said he believed intellectual freedom gives him licence to use his research funds unhindered.

While accepting the breaches were serious in nature, Smith did not agree they constituted serious misconduct, and said while he accepted the university had a valid reason for sacking Professor Jin, dismissal was too harsh an outcome. He did not find that Professor Jin “engaged in wilful and deliberate behaviour contrary to the lawful and reasonable direction of the university”.

On the questions of reinstatement, Professor Jin's lawyers said he did not have to be a chief investigator if he resumed employment at the university. Smith said it would be absurd to reinstate Jin to a position involving financial decision making, but that a reinstatement must be equal in scoep to the position previously held.

The university told The Australian, "This is an important matter for the university given the principles underlying the case, and we note the findings of deputy president Smith.”

In an earlier statement to the commission, Shi Xue Dou, a professor at the University of Wollongong, said “it would be a tragedy” if Professor Jin's research work did not progress.


  • by David 28/02/2013 4:32:40 PM

    This is another example of the outrageously pro-employee finding by the commission.
    If an employer cannot expect that an employee will not defraud their business - a public service business at that – then what is to stop any employee from committing similar actions without fear of recrimination. Did Smith require Jin to repay the university for the stolen money?
    As for the comment that “it would be a tragedy” if the research did not continue, so researchers should have a free reign to do what they want?

  • by clayton 28/02/2013 8:34:27 PM

    without knowing the full details it is always hard to comment, however from the information given in this article, I find this an extremely ridiculous decision. He was given the grant to research. Cosmetics and Noodle Makers ? this is where common sense and law are at conflict.
    Obviously the policies of the Uni or Research body are very weak and you would have to wonder how long and how common this sort of behaviour is.
    He has gotten away with theft and they have to give his job back - awesome!

  • by Jim 1/03/2013 7:59:26 AM

    It's appalling that any credence was given to Jin's assertion that "intellectual freedom gives him licence to use his research funds unhindered" -- what utter nonesense! To suggest that spending money granted for research could justify spending it on "air fares, wine, massage and reflexology, cosmetics, clothes, shoes, a camera, a noodle maker, speaker systems, groceries, bedding and tourist attraction tickets" beggars belief. It would be fair to assume that Professor Jin received an income from the University aside from the Grant, and that income is for personal expenses. Time to join the real world, Professor, like the taxpayers who paid for the fund!

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