A bank manager sacked for mistakenly transferring $37,000 to a fraudster has won her unfair dismissal case.
The Fair Work Commission ruled the dismissal unfair because because the worker had no training in the type of fraud involved.
Bank manager sacked for mistakenly transferring money
Kylie Smith worked at the Nambour Branch of the Bank of Queensland for 15 years.
In April last year, older customers swamped the branch to withdraw their savings because of panic over COVID-19.
During this peak busy period, Smith made the mistake.
A customer sent an email requesting the Bank of Queensland transfer his account to the Commonwealth Bank.
She then mistakenly transferred $37,500 to the fraudster’s account.
The Bank of Queensland recovered just $7,500.
Lost trust and confidence
Management subsequently sacked Smith, claiming she did not recognise the email was suspicious because it had been “written in an odd challenged language”.
Area manager Brett Holland told the Commission that Smith should have asked the customer, a builder, to come into the branch and prove their identity.
Furthermore, he argued the bank sacked Smith for a pattern of behaviour that did not align to the inherent requirement of her role.
He also described her failings as so significant that he lost trust and confidence in her ability.
However, Smith told the bank in a statement that the mistake happened because of the pressure brought about by the high number of older customers in the branch at the time.
“During this time at Nambour branch our customers/transactions spiked to an average of 157 per day with the phones ringing off the hook on top.
“We were also lacking in staff with two team members not present in branch.
“To this day I am stunned that I have been tangled up in a scam and I would like to profusely apologise for my mistake.”
Smith also told the Commission the bank failed to train her in how to detect and avoid the kind of fraud she encountered on the day.
In addition, she had no experience with fraud during her unblemished service with the bank.
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What the Commission found
Commission Deputy President Ingrid Asbury found Smith’s sacking unfair because she had no basis to suspect fraud and no experience with it.
She described Smith’s actions as careless but not negligent.
She also noted her failure to give sufficient attention to her work by failing to see three red flags.
However, she also found the fraudster’s emails were not so obvious that Smith should have noted them.
She said the fraudulent emails had been inserted into a chain which included a genuine email from the actual customer.
Therefore, Ms Asbury said Smith deserved to be “strongly censured” but not sacked.
“I am satisfied that on balance, the dismissal was harsh, because of its effect on the Applicant in the context of her good employment record and the length of her service.
“While the Applicant did engage in misconduct which was careless, her dismissal was also unreasonable because Mr Holland’s conclusion that the Applicant could not be trusted to carry out her role in future, was not soundly based. “
Ms Asbury will determine an appropriate remedy at a later date.
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