Temperature check fail leads to employee dismissal

Employee alleged felt well so [she] could 'work’

Temperature check fail leads to employee dismissal

In a recent FWC case, an applicant was summarily dismissed after failing to report that her temperature was above an acceptable level. The applicant worked as a disability support worker in Melbourne until her summary dismissal in July 2020.

In light of the rapidly developing COVID-19, in April 2020, the company introduced a temperature check procedure, which required all staff and customers to complete a temperature check upon entry to all sites.

The company required that any person with a temperature above 38°C be immediately isolated. In June 2020, the applicant undertook a then-routine temperature check at work. The first check showed the applicant’s temperature to be 33°C and, because of this impossibly low reading, a second check was conducted. The second check recorded the applicant’s temperature of 38.5°C - 0.5°C above the acceptable level.

Both the applicant and the staff member who conducted the check regarded the device to be unreliable on account of these inconsistent readings. Neither reported the applicant’s inflated temperature, and she proceeded to go about her work duties. The applicant was subsequently notified that a workplace investigation had commenced, alleging that she had failed to report an inflated temperature to a team leader and continued to work as normal.

During her show cause meeting, the applicant explained that she “knew she was not sick”, commenting “I felt well so I could work”. She also produced a medical certificate obtained the day after the incident, showing her temperature to be 36°C. Her employer asserted that she was “argumentative and confrontational” and showed no remorse or accountability.

The applicant was terminated the next day. The reason cited for her dismissal was due to the “serious and imminent risk” her actions caused to the health and safety of staff and customers, and her failure to carry out a reasonable and lawful instruction.

The applicant submitted that she was unaware of the temperature check procedure, which the Commission described as “simply implausible”. It further found that the medical certificate the next day did not justify her behaviour in failing to follow the procedure.

The Commission was satisfied that the applicant’s failure to comply with the lawful and reasonable policy constituted a valid reason for her summary dismissal. Her application was dismissed.

Key Takeaways:

  • Employees are required to comply with company procedures throughout the course of their employment
  • Failure to do so may give rise to a valid summary dismissal

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