Employers Beware – Serious Fines Possible

3 December, 2016

A recent decision in the Federal Circuit Court has found a Company liable to pay penalties of $25,500.00 for breaching Section 340(1) of the Fair Work Act. In this case, an employee asked about entitlements under the employee’s collective agreement, and was then terminated.

The Court found that the termination for enquiring about an employee’s entitlements was a significantly aggravating factor, and was deserved of a high level of penalty.

In this case, the employee obtained the benefit of the fine.

Employers must be particularly carefully when disciplining and/or terminating employees who may have raised some form of complaint or work place right as an issue in the lead up to the termination.

In another recent decision of the Fair Work Commission, the Commission found that a delay in an employer acting on allegations of theft from an employee disentitled the employer from summarily dismissing the employee. This is one of the circumstances whereby an employer was entitled to summarily terminate, but still acted harshly as the employer allowed the employee to continue working after the allegations had been made.

In a final comment, the Federal Court of Australia has recently ordered an ex-employee to pay damages for breach of copyright for taking an employer’s confidential information for his own personal use. Whilst the amount of damages was not large, the costs of the proceedings were significant, and it is appropriate to comment that in order to enforce rights, or defend the exercise of rights by others, significant resources are required by all parties when the actual dollar value of damages might be minimal.

Access Law Group is experienced in all aspects of workplace law, and if you wish to discuss any issues arising in your workplace, would be pleased to do so with you without charge in the first instance.