'Any money the applicant took was money that she was authorised to receive'
A practice manager who was fired by a dental clinic after she was accused of embezzlement has been awarded $40,000 in compensation for being unfairly dismissed, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) ruled.
The applicant, who was employed by Mastery Dental Clinic in Hornsby, allegedly pocketed close to $34,000 in “falsely claimed” salary, commission and performance bonus.
The amount demanded by the employer also factored in the $7,000 in cash the worker allegedly took from the clinic’s cash account without permission.
But a verbal agreement with a resident dentist supposedly allowed the worker to claim her pay, including her performance bonus ($200 for every $12,000 in revenue generated by the clinic), even while she was on maternity leave. The employer denied there was such an agreement.
In June 2018, the worker prepared a cash balance report that “clearly identified the amounts of performance bonus and commission” the worker said she was owed, the FWC heard.
The employer called the report a forgery then asked the worker to explain the $24,000 allegedly unaccounted for in the clinic’s cash record book.
“The applicant said she had never been given any guidance on how to prepare the cash reports,” the FWC found. “She had developed her own method and format, which she had been following for more than four years without any question or comment from management.”
The employee was terminated in September 2018.
‘Primitive’ accounting practices
“The evidence in this case is far from clear,” said Jonathan Hamberger, senior deputy president of the FWC, who deemed the employer’s accounting practices “primitive”.
“However, I generally accept the applicant’s version of events, especially as it was generally consistent with the written records, such as they are. In particular, I accept that the applicant had an understanding with the respondent that she would receive both commission and a performance bonus, and that these would continue to be paid while she was on maternity leave,” he wrote.
“The applicant’s practice, accepted and condoned by the respondent over a long period of time, was that she would take this money herself from the respondent’s cash receipts. There was nothing hidden about this.”
The commissions and bonuses were included in the worker’s cash reports. “I am not persuaded that there are any significant, unexplained discrepancies in the cash accounts the applicant had prepared,” the official noted.
The FWC ruled “any money the applicant took from the respondent’s cash receipts was money that she was authorised to receive.”
“Given these findings, I am satisfied that there was no valid reason for the applicant’s dismissal,” Hamberger said.