A worker has lost her chance to make an unfair dismissal claim after ‘Employee Dismissals’ failed to pay a filing fee.
The internet-based company didn’t respond to multiple Fair Work Commission requests to pay the fee before the strict 21-day deadline.
As a result of the mistake, the worker has forever lost her right to make an unfair dismissal claim against her former employer.
The Commission said Employee Dismissals showed a “surprising level of ineptitude or disorganisation”.
Employment law experts say the incident is another reminder to exercise caution when engaging internet-based companies for assistance with unfair dismissal claims.
The employee worked for 4lifeskills Inc as a Support Worker since January 2020.
The organisation sacked her on 4 October 2021.
As a result, she engaged the services of Employee Dismissals – an internet-based company offering representation to unfairly dismissed workers.
According to its website, Employee Dismissals offers “fast claim assessment” and “fast claim lodgement” for its clients.
It also claims to have “experienced claims specialists” with offices in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.
Moreover, the website makes it clear that “strict time limits apply to dismissal claims”. Therefore, it urges workers to “Get in touch with our dismissal specialists today.”
Despite this, it is not clear if the business addresses listed on the site are legitimate offices of the firm.
Employee Dismissals also only appears to have one contact number – a mobile phone number.
Furthermore, it also only appears to have one consultant – someone called “Brendan” based in Melbourne, who does not reveal his surname.
Strict 21-day deadline
The Fair Work Commission requires unfair dismissal claims to be filed within 21-days from the date of dismissal.
A filing fee of $75 is required unless the worker can prove financial hardship.
The Commission will not consider applications made past the 21-day deadline unless there are “exceptional circumstances”.
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Employee Dismissals filed an unfair dismissal application on behalf of the former 4lifeskills Support Worker on 19 October 2021, following her dismissal 15 days earlier.
However, due to what the woman later described as a “representative error”, Employee Dismissals submitted the first application without the filing fee.
As a result, the Commission contacted Employee Dismissals the following day on 20 October 2021 to discuss payment. A representative from the firm confirmed the fee would be paid later that same day.
A few hours later, the Commission followed up with an email to Employee Dismissals. It advised the firm that the application required a payment or a completed waiver form if the client wished to proceed with her claim. However, the email address on file for Employee Dismissals was not correct.
Then, on 3 November 2021, the Commission once again attempted to contact Employee Dismissals by phone. The call went unanswered and there was no provision to leave a voice message.
Finally, the Commission attempted to contact the worker directly, but she did not answer the call. The Commission left a voice message which the worker never returned.
Consequently, on 10 November 2021, the Commission dismissed the application for unfair dismissal.
The worker subsequently made a second application for unfair dismissal on 19 November 2021 – well past the 21-day deadline.
After considering the circumstances of the previous failed application, Deputy President Abbey Beaumont dismissed the second one too.
“I consider the Applicant is not blameless in respect of her conduct concerning the first application. A call was made to her, and a message left to contact the Commission. She did not do so. Consequently, her first application was dismissed hence giving rise to her second application, which was made out of time.
“This is not to say however that the Applicant’s representative, Employee Dismissals, had no part in effecting the delay. In this respect I am convinced that there was a representative error.”
The writer has attempted to contact Employee Dismissals for comment.
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan said the case is a reminder for dismissed workers to be cautious when choosing a representative.
“Firms purporting to be specialists in unfair dismissal claims should know how to file the appropriate documents and be well aware of what deadlines apply,” he said.
“While this case might have been a genuine oversight by Employee Dismissals, workers should know there are plenty of sharks on the internet looking to make a quick buck from someone else’s misfortune,” he said.
“Unfortunately, dodgy firms take advantage of vulnerable and desperate workers who don’t know the rules or their rights following dismissal.
“Always check the track record of a firm before signing up and letting them represent you.”
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Unfair Dismissals Direct
Previously, the ACCC took the rare step of issuing a public warning about another internet-based firm called ‘Unfair Dismissals Direct’.
The firm charged an administrative fee of $100 to represent dismissed workers. It would subsequently negotiate settlements on behalf of clients and then keep the lot – leaving workers out of pocket and without any compensation.
There is no suggestion Employee Dismissals has any connection to Unfair Dismissals Direct.
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