An insurance employee who worked from home was sacked after her boss tracked her keystrokes and discovered she was doing hardly any work.
The Fair Work Commission rejected her unfair dismissal claim finding her employer had a valid reason for dismissal.
Employee who worked from home sacked
Suzie Cheikho worked for Insurance Australia Group (IAG) for 18 years as a communications disclosure consultant.
Her duties included creating insurance documents, ensuring documents abided by legal standards, and also meeting regulatory timeframes.
IAG dismissed her in February this year for misconduct.
The company accused Ms Cheikho of missing numerous deadlines and meetings in addition to regularly being absent and uncontactable.
She also failed to lodge a product disclosure statement that resulted in the regulator fining IAG.
Ms Cheikho’s boss asked IAG’s ‘cyber team’ to conduct a review of her laptop activity from October to December.
Key-stroke spy technology allowed them to check how often she had been typing on her laptop while she was working.
It found that Ms Cheikho did not work her rostered hours – 7:30am to 4:00pm – for 44 days in that period of time.
She started work late on seven days and left early on 29 days. She also recorded zero work hours on four days.
When Ms Cheikho did work, the findings showed she had ‘very low keystroke activity on her laptop’ averaging 54 strokes per hour throughout the three months.
She did not type a single letter for 117 hours in October, 143 hours in November and 60 hours in December.
Targeted for mental health issues
When asked to explain the data during a formal meeting with managers – Ms Cheikho vehemently rejected its accuracy.
She said that she “doubted the data” and did “not believe for a minute” the findings were correct.
‘I cannot believe this data,’ she said.
“Sometimes the workload is a bit slow, but I have never not worked. I mean, I may go to the shops from time to time, but that is not for the entire day.”
In a written response, Ms Cheikho explained that she had looked over the data and couldn’t “recall why or how” the missing hours and times were low.
“I have tried to go through emails and messages to see if I can explain it,” she said.
“I have been going through a lot of personal issues which has caused a decline to my mental health and unfortunately I believe it has affected my performance and my work…”
She later added that she was “confused and shocked” by the data, doubted its accuracy again and stated the she used other devices to log in and work when she was having “system issues”.
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Unfair dismissal claim
Ms Cheikho filed an unfair dismissal claim arguing that IAG did not have a valid reason for dismissal.
She claimed management had a “premeditated plan to remove her from the business and that she was targeted due to her mental health issues”.
However, Deputy President Thomas Roberts did not agree.
He found that Ms Cheikho “was not working as she was required to do during her designated working hours”.
Mr Roberts also noted that she failed to provide a credible explanation for “the allegation relating to the non-performance of her duties”.
Similarly, she presented little evidence to support her argument that the data from the cyber review was inaccurate.
Mr Roberts said that there was a “valid reason for dismissal” as Ms Cheikho “was not working as she was required to do in the October to December 2022 period”.
He didn’t doubt there were “serious and real” factors that were behind Ms Cheikho’s “disconnection” from her work and that it was “regrettable” her employment had come to an end after a “long period of satisfactory service”.
“Nonetheless…I am satisfied that the dismissal of the applicant was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable,” Mr Roberts said.
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