Former dental boss launches multimillion-dollar unfair dismissal claim, says he was treated like a “criminal”

A former chief executive of Australia’s second-largest dental chain is suing the group’s parent company for wrongful dismissal, according to reports in The Australian Financial Review.

Mike Timoney, who co-founded Dental Partners in 2008, was dismissed by the company last year after a performance review by a consulting firm he alleges is part-owned by Dental Partners chairman Alan Clarke.

Fairfax reports Timoney has filed a $4.5 million unfair dismissal claim in the Supreme Court of Queensland against Abano Healthcare, the New Zealand-based parent company of Dental Partners.

Court documents allege Dental Partners chairman Alan Clarke engaged K2 Consulting to undertake two performance reviews of Timoney, despite allegedly being a joint shareholder in the consulting firm. Clarke is also the managing director of Abano Healthcare.

“All I ever wanted was to be treated fairly,” Timoney told The Australian Financial Review. “I founded this company. Being chucked out of the business in the dead of night like a criminal was not my idea of how I would depart,” he said.

Yvonne Walker, founder of HR with Ease, previously told SmartCompany businesses need to take care when sacking employees.

“Most ongoing conduct or performance issues can be valid reasons to dismiss an employee, provided that the conduct or performance is affecting the business sufficiently to warrant letting the employee go,” said Walker.

“Where there appears to be no reason for poor performance, you need to clearly explain the required performance levels required and ask whether they feel they’re able to do this,” she said.

Walker said reasons which are not valid for sacking an employee include their sex, race, age, disability or lawful industrial action.

“If a performance or conduct problem is linked to one of these areas, then dismissing someone because of that problem could also be unlawful,” said Walker.

“Even if a reason for termination is valid, a dismissal can still be found to be unfair if the process followed is harsh or unreasonable in the circumstances. Because most of these elements aren’t black and white, checking with an HR expert or employment lawyer is usually a good idea,” she said.

Fair Work provides a free fact sheet for businesses on their own rights and those of employees when it comes to termination of employment.

SmartCompany contacted Dental Partners for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.


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