An employee of a Brisbane-based mining company is pushing forward with his unfair dismissal case after he was sacked by the company for using his work laptop and broadband internet dongle while on sick leave.
Sasidhar Maturu was granted an appeal by a full bench of the Fair Work Commission after appealing against an earlier decision to throw out his unfair dismissal case against mining company Leica Geosystem.
Maturu’s case involved the personal use of a laptop and broadband access provided to him by Leica.
He brought the case against Leica earlier this year, but it was dismissed in May after Leica argued Maturu’s annual rate of earnings and other relevant amounts, including the sum of the broadband allowance, were above the income threshold allowing him to make an unfair dismissal claim.
On September 29, the commission granted Maturu’s appeal in which he contended he was protected from unfair dismissal as his income, including the broadband bill he had notched up, did not exceed the high income threshold of $129,300.
Employment lawyer Peter Vitale told SmartCompany there was no clear agreement in the contract of employment that Maturu would have the benefit of the private use of laptop and broadband access.
As such, Deputy President Asbury found, “There is no evidence of any agreed monetary value in relation to the mobile broadband usage, it appears that such usage could not meet the definition of ‘non-monetary benefit’.”
She found no additional sum should be calculated in relation to the mobile broadband service, thus leaving Maturu below the high income threshold.
While the case has yet to make any clear ruling on the personal use of laptop and broadband access by employees, Vitale says there are several clear take-outs for employers.
“Employers should have a clear policy that defines what is acceptable and what is not,” he says.
“They should ensure that policy is communicated clearly. They should make records of the fact they made employees aware of the policy and they should enforce the policy consistently.”
SmartCompany contacted Leica but the business was unable to respond prior to publication.