Commissioner Hunt Puts Stay Cool Refrigeration on Ice for Unfair Dismissal

In a recent decision, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) considered the dismissal of an employee by Stay Cool Refrigeration and whether the dismissal was harsh, unjust, or unreasonable. Andrews v Stay Cool Refrigeration Pty Ltd serves as a reminder to employers of the importance of not making decisions in haste and taking the time to follow the prescribed process when terminating an employee.

Mr Andrews was employed by Stay Cool Refrigeration but primarily worked for Gladstone Sheet Metal as a sheet-metal worker. One afternoon a client raised a query about a discrepancy between the hours they were being charged for and their records of the hours Mr Andrews was at their business. Less than 24 hours later, he arrived at work and was immediately terminated for fraudulent timekeeping.

During the hearing, the timesheets in question were found to contain numerous discrepancies including wrong job codes being assigned and incorrectly recorded overtime by the accounts team responsible for processing the timesheets. In addition, during cross-examination, it became clear that the Respondent had not followed its own disciplinary procedure. In fact, the decision to terminate Mr Andrews was made after no substantive investigation at all.

Commissioner Hunt found that despite the Respondent having in place “an extraordinarily well-written..[and] comprehensive Performance Management Procedure” they had done none of the things required by their own internal procedure or the Fair Work Act. The Commissioner also found the failure to afford Mr Andrews “a basic right” to respond was “offensive given the decades of experience” the Respondent said they and in management.

The Commissioner found that Mr Andrews had been unfairly dismissed and ordered the Respondent to pay him $9,310 in compensation. Hunt concluded their findings with the comment that “The Respondent was not interested in conducting a fair workplace investigation and Mr Andrews was grossly mischaracterised as a fraudster…Mr Andrews demonstrated honour; regrettably, the Respondent did not”.

Key Takeaways

Reference: Mr Glenn Andrews v Stay Cool Refrigeration (Aust) Pty Ltd T/A Gladstone Refrigeration And Air-Conditioning – [2023] FWC 209