In a recent decision the Fair Work Commission has reminded employers that whilst they may have a valid reason for terminating an employee, the termination process undertaken by the employer must follow procedural fairness.
In Mr Simon Ronchi v Johns Lyng Group  FWC 326, Mr Ronchi was dismissed from his employment for sending inappropriate messages, making inappropriate social media posts, promoting his own business and neglecting his duties during work hours.
Among other unprofessional conduct which included sending anonymous text messages to his manager, Mr Ronchi sent an email from his Johns Lyng Group work email address to three business partners, promoting a demolition company registered in his name stating that John Lyng Group had partnered with his company as its preferred contractor.
The Commission found that Mr Ronchi’s conduct was serious and intended to cause harm rendering it highly likely to cause damage to the employee and employer relationship. As such, the Commission deemed that the dismissal of Mr Ronchi’s was a proportionate response to his disregard for his express contractual duties.
However, although Mr Ronchi’s conduct was found to be ‘wilful and inconsistent with obligations to his employer’, the Commission simultaneously noted that the dismissal was procedurally unfair due to John Lyng Group’s failure to afford Mr Ronchi an opportunity to consider the allegations and evidence before a decision was made to terminate his employment. In this regard, Commissioner Yilmaz stated:
“Given the serious nature of the allegations and the breadth of evidence against Mr Ronchi, an opportunity to digest the allegations and show cause why he should not be dismissed would have been a more appropriate and fair dismissal process.”
In light of this, Mr Ronchi was awarded an amount of $1,635 being 1 weeks’ compensation.
Key Take Aways
- Employers should always remember to exercise care and diligence when undertaking steps to terminate an employment relationship.
- The seriousness of an employee’s conduct, or performance, will not prove to be sufficient justification for a lack of procedural fairness.
- Irrespective of whether there are valid grounds for dismissal, failure to adhere to adequate processes and procedures can potentially result in undesired outcomes such as reinstatement of the employee or an award of compensation to the employee.