Worker sacked for failing to declare suspended driver’s licence

'An employer is entitled to honesty from an employee, and vice versa'

Worker sacked for failing to declare suspended driver’s licence

The Fair Work Act states that all employees should be honest and truthful in their dealings with their employers. Honesty is critically important for employers as it ensures their staff can be trusted to provide accurate and reliable information.

Employees must be honest about their qualifications and any changes to their qualifications, as this is essential to ensure the accuracy of their records and the safety of the workplace.

In this case, a worker was dismissed for lying about the suspension of his driver’s licence, a lie which proved to be significant in compromising his position.

Background of the case

The Griffith city council employed the worker as a team leader in the country’s traffic facilities. The key criteria of the position state that it is “essential” for him to “hold an Australian driver’s licence class MR or equivalent.”

Around May 2022, the Roads and Maritime Services notified him of his traffic offences, and consequently, his driver’s licence would be suspended for six months.

The worker did not inform the employer of the suspension. Although, the latter became aware through a report it received a few months after.

In September, the worker was called to a meeting with the works manager – maintenance for the council, his direct manager.

During the meeting, the worker admitted the following:

  • confirmed that he had “lost” his licence
  • confirmed that he had not told anyone at work, but that he was unaware that he was required to
  • stated that he “lost” his licence for a period of three months already.

The council suspended him with pay pending an investigation.

He was called again for another meeting where the following matters were discussed:

  • Since his licence had been suspended, he had driven a council vehicle “a couple of times in the depot”;
  • He had not notified anyone at the council about the suspension. When asked why he had not done so, he said:

“I have been going through a lot of health issues. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to tell… I had a lot of stuff on my mind… Every time I was going to… I had anxiety and couldn’t do it.”

After a series of exchanges between the worker and the employer, the latter finally wrote to him and said:

“Critically, during the investigation, you lied when initially questioned about the length of the suspension of your driver’s licence, having initially failed to declare that it was suspended.

“[We are] most concerned that the conduct in question amounts to misrepresentation and dishonesty that are inconsistent with the ethical framework of the council and its code of conduct and that such matters go to the very core of the employment relationship. 

“Your acts of dishonesty were destructive of the mutual trust between the employer and employee, once discovered in council’s view authorises summary dismissal.”

The letter went on to inform him that he was dismissed with effect from the same day and that he would receive five weeks’ pay in lieu of notice.

Consequently, the worker filed before the New South Wales’ Industrial Relations Commission, asking to be reinstated to his employment with back pay.

HRD previously reported the case of another worker’s “dishonesty” when he self-approved repairs to a company-maintained car amounting to over $12,000. With his managers left clueless, he was terminated.

Another case dealt with a worker who was caught taking “excessive” breaks so he was dismissed for “time fraud,” which was described as “deliberate and willful flaunting of the employer’s trust.”

The Commission’s decision

The Commission said an employer “is entitled to honesty from an employee, and vice versa.” It said the worker was “dishonest about the period for which his licence had been suspended, but not about the suspension itself.”

It found the council did not prove what the worker “stood to gain by engaging in the dishonesty.”

On the other hand, the Commission said that his misconduct was “inconsistent with a person in a supervisory position.”

“He was a team leader. This was a position of some responsibility, which required him to lead a small crew and to supervise and coordinate crew activities,” it noted.

However, the Commission explained, “the objective seriousness of [his] dishonesty does not rise to the point of being at the higher end of the scale of misconduct.”

Ultimately, the Commission said his dismissal was unfair and unreasonable. It ordered him to be reinstated to his position with the Griffith city council immediately on the terms and conditions before being dismissed.

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