Worker claims unfair dismissal over ‘resisting feedback’

Employer fights back and says she 'resigned' after avoiding edits for outputs

Worker claims unfair dismissal over ‘resisting feedback’

The importance of being receptive to feedback is crucial in the workplace.

Employers must ensure that employees feel comfortable expressing their opinions and concerns. This allows for a healthier, more productive working environment and encourages open communication.

Feedback is also essential in creating and maintaining a positive working culture. When employees feel valued and heard, they are more likely to be satisfied and motivated in their job.

On the other hand, feedback also allows the employer to inform its staff of areas that need improvement.

In this case, a worker was unreceptive to feedback from a newly appointed supervisor. Because of her resistance, she was terminated from her employment.

HRD previously reported on a case of a teacher who questioned if his improvement program was “necessary,” adding that he did not agree that his performance was “substandard.”

Background of the case

The employer operates a family intervention service that aids families referred by the Queensland Child Safety Services.

Before working there, the worker completed her social work degree in 2021. She was employed as a family intervention practitioner (FIP) with the employer.

Her role required her to attend families’ homes where child protection concerns have been raised and write progress reports to Child Safety Queensland.

After a year, the employer appointed someone to assist the FIP staff. The new “supervisor” provided feedback on departmental reports. She sent an email to the FIP staff setting out her process for reviewing reports.

After a while, the supervisor requested a meeting with the worker to provide feedback on a particular report that she had submitted. The worker then gave an updated draft to the supervisor. She advised the worker that “she did not make all the requested changes.”

The supervisor kept requesting a meeting with the worker, and the latter agreed. Later, the worker also kept canceling her meetings, requesting that feedback be provided in writing.

After denying the supervisor several times, the worker said she wanted the discussion to be recorded if it was not provided in writing.

The employer finally intervened and emailed the worker regarding the report, directing her to finalise it and provide the amended draft to the supervisor. The worker failed to do this.

Afterward, the worker sent an email resigning from her position as FIP.

Can an employee question an employer’s plans to improve the company? Another HRD story had covered the case of “unhappy” employees who resisted changes in their roster structure.

The parties’ arguments

The worker said her duty was to write case reports that a senior team member reviewed. Before the supervisor, this was primarily conducted by a co-worker.

But ever since the supervisor’s appointment, the worker said she felt she was under “discriminative reviewing” of her case reports.

The worker argued she could not submit her reports to the Department of Child Safety in a “timely fashion because of these edits.” Thus, the worker said she was unable “to undertake a core duty to her position,” adding that it “resulted in significant distress” for her.

She also said, “the change in the review process was a deliberate attempt to get her to resign.”

On the other hand, the employer said the supervisor’s feedback was not “at any time inappropriate or victimising in nature.”

As a newly qualified FIP, the employer said the worker was required to take on feedback and make changes to departmental reports, as requested by the supervisor.

It also said the worker “clearly and unambiguously resigned.”

“This was of her own volition and is not the consequence of the employer’s actions. The resignation was not ‘heat of the moment’ as the worker applied for another role and secured the position prior to resignation,” the employer added.

The FWC’s consideration

The Fair Work Commission said it was “not convinced” that the employer’s actions left the worker no option but to resign.

“She had elected to resign. In these circumstances, it is clear that the worker freely made her choice,” the decision said.

It said the employer’s actions before the resignation, like appointing a supervisor to request edits of the worker’s outputs, were not done in bad faith.

Hence, the FWC said there was no unfair dismissal, nor did the employer force the worker to resign.

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