Manager said he did it to 'relieve pressure' on staff to meet company's targets
A manager recently questioned his employer’s decision to terminate him after it found out that he mishandled the company’s account by “manipulating the sales figures.”
The employer said that such “dishonest” conduct was improper for a senior employee, but he said he only did it to protect his employees from undue business pressure.
The manager, Cameron Myers, filed an application with the Fair Work Commission (FWC), alleging that he was unfairly dismissed by his employer, Amart Furniture Pty Ltd.
Myers started work with the employer in December 2014, and at the time of termination, he served as the store manager at the Cannington store in Western Australia.
The employer operates a system of 30-day accounts for approved business customers, allowing them a grace period for payment without a deposit.
Conversely, non-approved customers are required to pay a deposit of at least 10 percent when placing an order.
Company officer discovers irregularity
In June 2023, the employer's risk and compliance officer, Erin Funaki, uncovered an order irregularity at the Ballina Store, revealing the misuse of the 30-day account system.
Subsequent investigations revealed the manager's repeated use of this practice, prompting the employer to initiate disciplinary measures.
The employer informed the manager of its findings, stood him down pending investigation, and conducted an interview on 26 July 2023.
Following this, a letter outlining the findings was sent on 3 August 2023, directing the manager to a meeting the next day.
After their discussion, the employer decided to terminate his employment, citing intentional policy breaches, attempts to conceal such conduct and prior violations of the code of conduct.
Myers raised several points contesting the fairness of his dismissal, including alleged disparate treatment, the perceived insignificance of his actions, the practice being taught by a senior employee, and the absence of risk to the employer. Myers also said the disciplinary process was flawed, and the outcome was premeditated.
Meanwhile, the employer said it had a valid reason for dismissal tied to the manager's policy breaches. It emphasised Myers senior role, awareness of company policies, and prior warning, highlighting that following the company's rules was a critical expectation.
‘Relieving the pressure on employees’
According to records, Myers tried to justify his misuse of the system. He said that “when he was introduced to the system, it was explained that it was a way to ‘balance out’ cancelled orders.”
“If a store had orders that had been cancelled, the cancellation amount would reduce the store’s sales figures. However, this could be offset by entering an order for which full payment had not been received as a 30-day account order.”
“In other words, that order would appear as though it was a completed sale, albeit that this would only be for the purposes of tracking the store’s sales and not for the purpose of releasing the goods to the customer,” the FWC noted.
He said that he “used the system in this way because it made sense to him as a means of dealing with the sales pressures that Amart employees were under post-COVID. By offsetting the cancelled orders, he felt the pressure on employees in his store was relieved somewhat.”
Might ‘manipulate a store’s sales’
Meanwhile, the employer argued that the improper use of the 30-day account system had negative impacts on its operations.
"The primary concern was that the improper use could be used to manipulate a store’s sales figures in the short term. The effect of making the sales figures look better would materialise in the number of staff rostered, as the wages budget allocated to a store was highly responsive to the store’s sales figures," the employer said.
It added that "the improper use of the 30-day account system meant that it was not receiving accurate and timely data regarding the operations of the Cannington store."
Performance review advantage
The FWC found that the manager’s “improper use of the 30-day account system was primarily for his own benefit.”
“While he may not have had any material gain in terms of his sales bonus, his use of the system to ensure that his store’s sales figures looked healthy and consistent was to ensure he reduced pressure on all employees in the store, including himself,” the FWC said.
“The other advantage for [him] would be that he personally avoided what may be difficult conversations with [the employer]. He would be advantaged in terms of his performance review by having steady sales results,” it added.
Was it a valid dismissal?
The FWC found that the manager was aware “that his manipulation of the sales figures would impact his wage budgets,” adding that “he could not have been unaware that such use was not in accordance with official policy and would have provided inaccurate figures.”
“[He] was a store manager and in a position of trust. It was incumbent upon him to act with honesty and integrity and to act in the best interests of his employer,” the FWC said.
“As store manager, he was responsible for maintaining the [employer’s code of conduct] in his workplace, and so to suggest, by implication, that he was somehow unclear on the code is not credible,” it said.
“Further, a store manager should not need a written code of conduct to direct them to be honest,” it added. Thus, it found that the employer had a valid reason to terminate his employment.