Fired for ruining manager's personal plans?

Shop assistant claims she was fired after failing to rebook trip

Fired for ruining manager's personal plans?

A worker recently filed an unfair dismissal claim before the Fair Work Commission (FWC), alleging she was fired after she refused to change her travel plans that conflicted with her manager’s “personal commitments.”

On August 25, 2023, the worker, Rebecca Roberts filed an application, seeking redress for an alleged unfair dismissal by her former employer, 3D DECORATORS PTY LTD. Roberts claimed that she was unfairly dismissed on August 8, 2023.

The employer opposed the application and said Roberts was not dismissed but rather was a casual employee.

Roberts started working as a shop assistant on March 9, 2022. On June 29, 2023, she was informed about a reduction in her hours and proposed a transition to permanent part-time hours.

A letter on June 30, 2023, suggested continued engagement as a casual Level 1 Shop Assistant from July 3, 2023, at a specified rate. Roberts responded, proposing different hours and a higher pay rate.

In May 2023, Roberts arranged to attend a non-work-related training course in Sydney on August 12-13, 2023.

Worker’s personal travel plans

According to records, in late July 2023, the employer’s manager “became aware that Roberts had blocked herself out from 10 to 14 August 2023.” The manager “was also intending to be away on those dates.”

The manager said she “did not want to have a situation where a single employee would be in the store alone.”

On or about 1 August 2023, the manager spoke to Roberts about the “time clash.” She advised Roberts that “if she was not available on those dates, then she would need to find and train another casual employee. Roberts did not change her plans.”

Later, discussions about store coverage during her absence took place. After a week, Roberts was informed of a company restructure due to financial hardships, and that day was to be her “last shift.” She handed back her key, completed her time book, collected her belongings and left.

Employer hired a new worker

Soon after, Roberts observed a new employee in the store, and received no communication from the employer. She contended there was no genuine redundancy and highlighted instances where only one salesperson was working in the store.

The manager and part owner of the employer said Roberts was not dismissed but was not offered further shifts due to a downturn in business and other operational considerations.

‘Conflicted’ with manager’s plans

“Roberts was told by [the manager] that there had been a company restructure and that [she] would [have] her last shift and asked to hand her keys back. This conduct clearly constitutes a dismissal,” the FWC said.

“Absent any genuine ‘restructure’, it appears that the more likely reason for Roberts being dismissed and not being offered more shifts was because she declined to cancel her pre-booked travel arrangements on 11 and 14 August 2023 which impacted on [the manager’s] personal commitments,” it said.

“It appears that [the manager] engaged the new part time employee prior to the dismissal of Roberts and once that arrangement was concluded, never intended to offer further shifts to Roberts.”

“The hiring of a part time employee with less flexibility thana casual employee also appears inconsistent with the suggestion that the [employer’s] business lost [significant money] the previous month and was on track to lose more.”

“It is quite apparent to me that Roberts was dismissed because she made a prior commitment which conflicted with [the manager’s] personal arrangements (which Roberts was not privy to until after the flights and accommodation was booked), and when asked, did not change it. This is not a valid reason for a dismissal,” the FWC said.

Thus, the FWC said that the worker was unfairly dismissed. Consequently, it ordered the employer to pay compensation.

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