A worker unfairly sacked for stealing a can of Coke has been awarded $30,000 compensation.
The Fair Work Commission found the worker’s expression of remorse, in addition to his long unblemished work record, made the dismissal harsh and unfair.
Worker unfairly sacked for stealing can of Coke
The man worked as a boner at the Australian Country Choice meat works for almost 10 years.
He was seen on CCTV footage stealing a can of Coke from an open vending machine located on site.
When management confronted him with the vision, the worker said he didn’t know why he stole the soft drink describing it as “out of character”.
In response to a Show Cause letter, the worker claimed he thought it okay to take the drink because the vending machine had short-changed him in the past.
He estimated he’d lost at least $10 in the allegedly faulty machine.
Two co-workers backed up his claim, saying that they also had lost money in the machine.
However, the boner did admit it was wrong to take the drink.
“The way I rationalised the decision… was a mistake.
“I should have resolved the issue with my prior purchases at the time they happened, and I will never make such a mistake again.
“I am filled with remorse and would like to offer my sincere apology for any damage that I have caused, and I would like to offer to pay for the drink I took.”
Despite his genuine remorse, and his excellent work history, the company decided the boner’s conduct was of “such a serious nature” that it warranted dismissal.
The Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU) represented the worker during his unfair dismissal claim in the Fair Work Commission.
The union argued the dismissal was harsh because:
- the trivial nature and tiny value of the item taken
- the conduct was out of character for the worker
- the worker readily admitted his conduct and did not attempt to mislead management
- the worker’s length of service and impeccable disciplinary record
- the worker had previously lost money in the machine
- the termination meant the worker missed out on pro-rata long service leave, despite the length of his service with the company
In response, Australian Country Choice argued that stealing the drink amounted to serious misconduct and breached its policies and trust.
Furthermore, it noted that it sacked another employee who took something from the vending machine.
‘Enough mitigating circumstances’
Commissioner Chris Simpson noted the boner’s unblemished work record of almost 10 years.
He also found it significant that the company dismissed him just prior to his eligibility for long service leave.
Mr Simpson also noted the worker’s honesty with management about the incident.
“There was no deception or dishonesty on the part of [the worker] once confronted with his actions in taking the can of Coke.
“[The worker] owned up to taking a can of Coke with a likely value of $2 or $3 in circumstances where he had lost many times that amount to the same vending machines over a period of time without recompense.
“There are enough mitigating circumstances, including his immediate expression of remorse, and his long and unblemished history with [the company] to conclude that [the worker’s] dismissal was harsh and, on that basis, unfair.”
Mr Simpson described the worker’s conduct as “out of character” and “a one off opportunistic and momentary lapse of judgement”.
He subsequently ordered Australian Country Choice to pay him $28,280.
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