Summary dismissal for working hour lies upheld

A court has upheld the summary dismissal of a senior manager for working too-short hours and not confessing to it when questioned by her employer.

Quality assurance manager Demetrius McDonald was questioned by her employer, Parnell Laboratories, after other employees complained that she had been arriving late, leaving early and disappearing for long periods in the middle of the day.

In response she sent an email to her boss saying that she had been regularly arriving before nine, leaving after five and taking short lunch breaks – contrary to the evidence of several other employees.

Following this exchange McDonald accepted that she would have to resign and sought a letter of termination with notice from the company. The company refused to provide this, however, and McDonald was told that she was dismissed without notice and escorted from the premises.

At the Federal Court, Justice Robert Buchanan rejected McDonald’s claim that she was entitled to be paid out the eight-week notice period in her employment contract.

Buchanan found that not only were the hours McDonald worked contrary to company policies that formed part of her contract requiring the faithful and diligent performance of her duties, but her dishonest response to her employer’s query meant that she had engaged in a serious breach of her employment contract.

“Taking the view, as I do, that the wilfulness of Ms McDonald’s misconduct provided a sufficient foundation for her summary dismissal I conclude that no breach of contract has been established by failing to provide at least eight weeks’ notice of termination,” Buchanan said.

For more on how incorporating company policies into employees’ contracts can change the course of employment disputes and dismissals, don’t miss Peter Vitale’s story Termination: the case for strict policies.

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