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Audi Employee Victimised by Unfair Dismissal: A Comprehensive Look at the Fair Work Commission’s Ruling

Imagine clocking in at your workplace one day only to be abruptly dismissed from your role due to a series of less than stellar customer feedback scores. Sounds unjust, doesn’t it? Kris Brennan, an ex-Audi employee, had a similar fate, a circumstance which has now been officially labeled as unfair dismissal by the Fair Work Commission.

Kris Brennan’s journey at the Audi dealership, situated in Brisbane’s bustling inner suburb, Indooroopilly, began in May 2017. Tasked with the responsibilities of a service advisor, his role encompassed greeting customers, quoting repair costs, facilitating communication with technicians, and processing payments. His remuneration structure included an annual base salary of $47,000, supplemented by superannuation and a potential monthly 1% bonus contingent on meeting certain performance targets.

The crux of the unfair dismissal case revolved around an optional customer survey designed to gather customer experience insights at the dealership. It featured five questions, with the option for customers to score each one on a scale of one (lowest) to five (highest). The collective average of these survey scores was then allocated as the Customer Experience Marker (CEM) to each customer service employee. Those with a CEM score of more than 4.5 were eligible for the monthly commission bonus.

Fast forward 2019, when Mr. Brennan received a ‘first and final warning letter’ concerning his less-than-stellar survey results, which were purportedly below the national benchmark and in the bottom half of the service advisors within the Audi Australia group. His CEM scores had fluctuated between 4.1 and 4.5.

Then came March 22, the day Mr. Brennan found himself meeting his manager, Daniel Nicholson, only to receive a letter of immediate termination, accompanied by two weeks’ pay in lieu of notice, plus any outstanding wages and leave entitlements. Among the reasons cited for his dismissal were his supposed lack of eye contact with customers, a demeanor perceived as ‘short’, and the offence of arriving at work in an unironed shirt.

In his claim of unfair dismissal, Mr. Brennan argued that Audi Indooroopilly had unjustly correlated the customer survey results with his performance, asserting it was unreasonable to attribute poor customer feedback solely to him, especially when it might be linked to issues beyond his control such as the quality of the repair work done on the vehicles.

The Fair Work Commission supported his claim, emphasising the positive trend in Mr. Brennan’s scores and highlighting the intrinsic injustice of attributing the entire service experience to a single service advisor. Audi Australia, an ASX-listed entity boasting 1400 employees across various organisations, faced sharp criticism for their improper handling of the termination.

The Commission expressed its surprise at the lack of HR management specialists in such a large organization, stating, “For such a large organization not to have some human resource management specialists is astounding.”

Audi Indooroopilly also came under fire for its requirement for customer-facing employees like Mr. Brennan to rank within the top 50% of all service advisors across the Audi Australia group. The Commission wittily noted, “While it is certainly a virtuous goal…mathematics requires that half of the employees will [also] be in the bottom half.”

As a consequence of their misconduct, the company was instructed to compensate Mr. Brennan with a sum of $9,134.60 plus superannuation.

This case serves as a reminder for organisations to establish fair employee evaluation metrics and apply them reasonably, and to ensure they are equipped with adequate human resources management. Otherwise, they might find themselves facing a similar predicament to that of Audi Indooroopilly

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