In a significant decision, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has once again emphasized that removing an employee from a WhatsApp group dedicated to rostering can be considered a form of dismissal. Deputy President Amber Millhouse, in a recent case, rejected the employer’s argument that being removed from a WhatsApp group does not equate to dismissal. The ruling sheds light on the repercussions of such actions and underscores the importance of fair treatment and communication within the workplace.
In this particular case, a Year 11 student working as a casual employee at a kebab shop found herself removed from the WhatsApp group on the same day she raised concerns about underpayment. The student had not worked for nearly three months since requesting time off to focus on schoolwork. The employer argued that it was a routine practice to remove employees from the group, even for short periods when they made themselves unavailable. However, the student countered that she had never been removed from the group in the past, except when employees were terminated.
Deputy President Millhouse took into account the evidence presented and concluded that removing the student from the WhatsApp group was the primary reason for her employment ending. The WhatsApp group served as the principal means of allocating shifts to the employer’s employees, making it essential for work allocation. Consequently, being removed from the group meant that the student would no longer receive work shifts. The employer’s claim that the removal was intended to prevent distraction during the student’s studies was dismissed since no such action was taken earlier when she requested time off for the same reason.
The employer’s assertion that employees were routinely removed from the WhatsApp group during short absences lacked supporting evidence. Additionally, the manager’s phone call, which occurred on the same day as the text and WhatsApp messages discussing underpayment concerns, did not provide sufficient proof that it was solely about offering more shifts. Given the lack of substantial evidence, Deputy President Millhouse did not accept the employer’s contentions.
The FWC ruling in this case highlights the significance of fair treatment and clear communication in the workplace. Removing an employee from a WhatsApp group dedicated to rostering can have serious consequences, especially when it serves as the primary method of shift allocation. The decision underscores the need for employers to consider the implications of their actions and to ensure that employees are not subjected to unfair treatment or adverse consequences. By treating employees with respect and providing transparent communication, employers can foster a positive work environment that upholds employee rights.
Moving forward, it is crucial for employers to review their practices and policies regarding employee communication platforms such as WhatsApp groups. Clear guidelines should be established to avoid misunderstandings and potential legal issues. By doing so, employers can promote a culture of fairness and inclusivity, ultimately benefiting both employees and the organisation as a whole.
Call Frontline Employment Defenders Now so we can help if you have been bullied or unfairly dismissed on1300 089 353 or visit https://www.fled.com.au