The Fair Work Commission has awarded a former botox salesman just over $20,000 in compensation after he was sacked for trying to be reimbursed for what his former employer says were not legitimate business expenses.
Daniel Girardi had been working as a product specialist for pharmaceutical supplier Allergan for more than seven years but was dismissed in June 2015 over allegations he failed to follow the correct procedures relating to travel expenses.
Girardi’s role involved travelling to various parts of South Australia and the Northern Territory to sell botox for the treatment of movement disorders, chronic migraines and other medical conditions.
The Fair Work Commission heard that in May last year, the former salesman travelled to Mount Gambier and later attempted to have his accommodation and meals reimbursed by the company.
However, Allergan did not approve the expenses and, on June 11, asked Girardi to review his diary and provide the business with details of who he visited on the Mount Gambier trip by noon the following day.
On the morning of June 12, without waiting for a response from Girardi, the business advised the former botox salesman of his termination via email.
Evidence provided to the commission showed Allergan wrote in the email there was a “clear breakdown between you [Girardi] and the company”.
“As such, your recent behaviour leaves us with no option but to terminate your employment, effective immediately,” the business said.
Allergan advised that while it was not required to do so, it would provide one month’s pay in lieu of notice.
Girardi took the matter to the Fair Work Commission, arguing he did perform work duties while in Mount Gambier and was therefore not guilty of misconduct.
Girardi also claimed he was not given an opportunity to properly respond to the allegations and asked the commission to reinstate him.
In response, Allergan told the commission Girardi did not obtain prior approval for the trip and sought to downplay the fact his wife and son attended a jazz festival in Mount Gambier on the same weekend.
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Fair Work Commissioner Peter Hampton found Girardi’s evidence to be “unconvincing in many respects” and it was “entirely reasonable” for his employers to be suspicious of the Mount Gambier trip.
“The Mount Gambier trip did involve some work being undertaken and there was some limited work purpose achieved,” Hampton said in his judgment.
“It was not a complete fiction as contended by Allergen, but represented a recklessly organised and largely unproductive exercise that facilitated some work being done during a trip that otherwise suited Mr Girardi for personal reasons.”
However, the commission ruled the dismissal was still unfair because Girardi was not given the opportunity to properly respond to allegations of misconduct.
Employment lawyer Peter Vitale told SmartCompany issues around travel and reimbursements are common workplace disputes.
“Questions of false expense claims come up regularly enough and it’s important that employers make clear to their employees what the rules are,” Vitale says.
“It’s more often than not the grey areas which enable people to get away with bending the rules.”
SmartCompany contacted Allergen but did not receive a response prior to publication.
SmartCompany was unable to conduct Girardi prior to publication.