Misconduct in the workplace can be a tricky matter for employers to deal with, which is often made more difficult due to Christmas shut downs and staff annual leave. There are 5 steps that an employer should consider when investigating misconduct and deciding to take disciplinary action to mitigate the risk that an employee (either the person alleged to have engaged in misconduct, or the person on the receiving end of that conduct) will mount legal claims.
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As we whiz through the festive season towards Christmas, employers should be mindful of any workplace conduct that may constitute direct or indirect discrimination on the basis of an employee’s religion.
As we rapidly approach the end of the year, the office Christmas party can be cause for concern for many employers. There are two key issues that employers should turn their mind to when planning their staff Christmas party.
An employee who was suspended indefinitely without pay after her employer decided that she had breached the conditions of her visa was unfairly dismissed, according to the Fair Work Commission in Devi v Doutta Galla Aged Services Limited  FWC 4142.
An interview provides an employer with an opportunity to get to know prospective employees and assess their suitability for employment. Often, there are many questions an employer wants to ask a prospective employee – however care should be taken to avoid questions which can later be relied on by the interviewee to mount legal claims.
What can an employer do if an employee makes vexatious or baseless complaints in the pursuit of some ulterior purpose?
The Fair Work Commission has refused an application for an extension of time to file an unfair dismissal application, following a detailed examination of a travelling employee’s social media activities and text messages which demonstrated that he was not incapacitated by depression and grief following his dismissal.
Fair Work Ombudsman audit
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) recently conducted an audit of businesses throughout the eastern states of Australia which found that found that 72% of the businesses had breached workplace laws. The audit resulted in the recovery of $471,904 for 616 workers across the 234 businesses audited. The most common breach was an underpayment of hourly rates, followed by non-existent or inadequate employment records.
“72% of businesses had breached workplace laws”
In the employment law space, there has been growing debate on whether all Australian employees should have a minimum entitlement to take either paid or unpaid domestic violence leave. The debate was reinvigorated in March, when, as part of the four-yearly review of modern awards, the Fair Work Commission introduced 5 days’ unpaid domestic violence leave for all award-covered employees.
It is a common misconception amongst employers that a senior position title and high income can exclude an employee from being covered by a modern award. Not so. Instead, employers must look to the principle purpose of the position the employee was performing to assess whether it is covered by the classifications of roles covered by the award.
LinkedIn is one example of how new technologies and social media “disruptors” are intercepting with the workplace in ways that challenge our traditional notions of employment rights and obligations.
Under the Fair Work Act 2009 and the Fair Work Regulations 2009, Australian employers are required to keep records in relation to each of their employees
HRD Australia recently reported that the success rate of Australian employers in unfair dismissal cases has dropped below 40% for the first time – while these remain the claim of choice for employees, with an unfair dismissal claim lodged every three and a half minutes in Australia.1
We expect hot topics for workplaces will include managing poor performance and bullying and stress claims, avoiding award or NES breach claims (and the risk of huge new penalties) or discrimination claims.
When organising your office party this year, there are a few things to be mindful of. Your duty of care as an employer extends to the actions of your employees at a work-sponsored event, even if it held off-site or outside of office hours.
Ensuring a safe, fun and professional event requires ensuring responsible behaviour compliant with occupational health and safety standards and avoiding employees experiencing sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying or other inappropriate treatment.
Around 45% of Australians aged between 16 and 85 will experience a mental illness in their lifetime, and 1 in 5 Australian adults will experience a mental illness in any given year. Therefore, it is very likely that from time to time an employer will need to performance manage an employee who is experiencing a mental illness.
A well drafted employment contract, complemented by a professionally prepared Employee Handbook and Management Guide, provides a solid foundation for a positive employment relationship, and minimises the risk of legal claims.
On 23 February 2017 the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) handed down a significant decision following a review of weekend and public holiday penalty rates across the following six modern awards
In perhaps the most interesting development to date since the commencement of the Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) anti-bullying powers, Commissioner Hampton, the Panel Head of the FWC’s anti-bullying jurisdiction, has issued an interim order to restrain an employer from dismissing an employee for alleged misconduct until the tribunal determines the employee’s anti-bullying application.
Qantas has succeeded in its appeal to undo the unfair dismissal finding for a flight attendant who stole alcohol and lied during the investigation. The FWC Full bench overturned the ruling of unfair dismissal in Qantas Airways Limited v David Dawson  FWCFB 41, finding that Deputy President Lawrence had failed to take into account the Qantas employee’s dishonesty during the investigation into allegations of theft.
Formal written warnings and structured performance improvement plans are not an essential requirement to prove that a dismissal, based on poor performance, is fair.
Sticking to what you know when obtaining new employment may backfire when a client-specific restraint that protects an employer’s legitimate interest is likely to be enforceable and valid. It may be appropriate to widen the job search, and seek legal advice on your options.
In the recent decision of Devil Dog Pty Ltd v Cook  WASC 27, the Supreme Court of Western Australia granted an interim injunction to prevent a former employee from competing with his former employer’s business. The decision is a timely reminder on the importance of carefully drafting and considering restraint of trade clauses in commercial agreements.
In order to survive, many businesses have to restructure their workplace. This often results in reducing surplus assets, addressing inefficiencies, and cutting or removing shifts. The redundancies that result from this process present a significant legal risk to employers.
Employment law covers a broad range of complex legal issues affected by layers of common law and statute across state and federal jurisdictions. These legal issues begin in business set up or acquisition stage, with transmission of business, recruitment of new employees, establishing suitable contracts, and complying with awards and National Employment Standards – establishing the employment relationship.
A female hotel employee in Queensland has been awarded $313,000 in damages for sexual harassment and assault she was subjected to in her bed by the hotel caretaker. The case rings a warning to employers that they need to take reasonable steps to prevent employees engaging in or being exposed to such conduct.
Doing business in another country or jurisdiction can present unexpected difficulties and challenges. For foreign businesses looking to expand into Australia, complying with Australia’s industrial relations system can be particularly difficult.
However, ensuring that you meet your employment obligations and that you have sound employment practices in place is essential to the success of your Australian operations.
When does the Fair Work Act 2009 apply to your business or employees?
In some cases, it can be difficult to determine if a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, because it is often the case that some of the relevant indicia may point towards an employment relationship, while other indicia may point to an independent contractor relationship.
The Fair Work Commission has for the first time published data on the outcomes of general protection applications involving dismissal.
Find out which employment contracts are right for your business. Read about maximum or fixed compared with extended or open contracts.
This decision highlights the dangers for companies and their owners or directors misrepresenting to individuals that they will be engaged as contractors when they in fact are employees.
We talk about four valid reasons to terminate an employee, including misconduct, genuine redundancy, poor performance and incapacity.
Dealing with an unfair dismissal claim requires an understanding of employment law. Get legal advice from an employment lawyer soon as possible.
The relationship between employer and employee is subject to a multitude of Australian state and federal laws and is key to the success of any business. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) face a number of challenges when managing their employees. Many businesses lack a dedicated human resources department, leaving HR responsibilities to busy owners or senior managers.
If employees are inappropriately classified as casuals, they may be able to bring claims against their employer for breaches of Modern Awards or the Fair Work Act 2009. They may also be able to claim that their employer has misrepresented their workplace rights. In these circumstances, employees will be entitled to seek compensation as well as penalties of up to $54,000 against the employer for each breach or misrepresentation.
In the recent case of Joseph Roussety v Castricum Brothers Pty Ltd the Supreme Court of Victoria was called upon to consider an employee’s negligence claim for overwork causing psychiatric injury. This case serves as a salient reminder that an employer owes a duty to take reasonable care to avoid any foreseeable risk of injury arising from an employee’s circumstances of employment. In particular, it warns of the dangers of cost cutting without having regard to the effect on existing employees.
MDC Legal has successfully defended an employer against an employee’s claims for unpaid visa expenses and bonuses exceeding $200,000. The applicant, Mr Bradley, was employed by the respondent, Binder Group Pty Ltd, as their WA Industrial Sales Manager and later as its National Sales Manager from July 2011 to April 2015. After resigning from his employment, Mr Bradley brought proceedings in the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission (Commission) against Binder Group alleging that he was owed contractual benefits. All of Mr Bradley’s claims were rejected by the Commission.
Ms Heraud went on maternity leave in September 2013. She was due to return to her role in a senior position in July 2014. Meanwhile, Roy Morgan had a revenue downturn leading to a restructure of its operations, causing Ms Heraud’s role to be made redundant.
Not so long ago, there was a clear line between work and play – between conduct at work and employees’ private lives, with the latter being none of the employer’s business.
The recent unfair dismissal case of Michael Treen v Adelaide Services Alliance T/A Allwater JV  FWC 2737 (Treen) highlights the need for employers to be consistent in their disciplinary action.