Employee threatened with sack for daring to ask for a car allowance

A landscape company is embroiled in legal proceedings brought by the Fair Work Ombudsman after an employee was threatened with the sack for asking for a car allowance when he was told to use his own car for work.

Tuscan Landscape Company – which distributes landscape supplies to retailers in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria – told the employee he “should not expect a good outcome and may be fired for causing trouble,” after he asked for a car allowance, according to documents filed in the Federal Magistrates Court in Brisbane.

Tuscan’s northern regional manager Steven Commons and the company’s Queensland state manager Matthew Thompson are also facing charges over the allegations.

The FWO claims the employee was required to use his own car to drive to, from and between various work sites but he was not paid an allowance to do so, when he was actually entitled to a rate of 74 cents a kilometre.

The FWO says the employee raised the issue of a vehicle allowance three times with Tuscan and was refused each time.

He was allegedly told he was not entitled to an allowance but if he wanted to claim for the use of his car, he should keep a log book and claim it back on his tax.

After receiving advice from the Fair Work info line on vehicle allowances, the employee allegedly raised the issue again with Thompson, who allegedly responded that he would speak to his superiors, but the employee “should not expect a good outcome” and if he pursued the matter, he “may be fired for causing trouble”.

The FWO claims Thompson subsequently advised the employee that Tuscan would not pay him a car allowance and his only option was to keep a log book and claim the expense back on his tax.

After learning that the employee had lodged a complaint with the FWO over the matter, Thompson allegedly phoned the employee and used words to the effect that if he “kicked up a fuss the big bosses probably would not be happy and would say just sack this guy”.

The FWO also claims Commons advised the company’s senior bookkeeper that if Tuscan was required to pay the employee a vehicle allowance, he would reduce the employee’s hours of work or prohibit him from using his motor vehicle for work-related purposes.

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