A Sydney puppy farm’s reasons for dismissing a casual kennel hand were “capricious, fanciful, spiteful or prejudiced”, the Fair Work Commission has found.
The employee, who was also a university student, had been working at Cloud Catcher Pty Ltd for about two years without any performance issues being raised until a new manager was introduced.
She sacked him three months after she joined the company.
However, it was only in the final 10 days leading up to his dismissal that the worker was made aware of any concerns about his performance.
Over that period the manager sent him a series of emails. The first questioned his cleaning methods, as well as his knowledge of dog grooming practices, which he had not been trained in, nor was part of his original job.
Two days later, she emailed the employee again and told him she was trialling new casual staff and would “evaluate all members”, including him, to then “decide the eligible members to rebuild the organisation”.
When it was discovered that the worker was unable to drive the company car (as he was under 25 years old) to perform additional tasks, which he agreed to, the manager advised him that his roster would change.
The following day she sent him a lengthy email terminating his employment, stating the main reason was she couldn’t meet him in person to train him, because of his university schedule. She also insinuated that he wasn’t a team player who was “sharing missions”.
In the email, she asked him to see the situation from her point of view: “Think if you were a leader, and want to improve running organisation. [sic]”
Fair Work Commissioner Leigh Johns found that the dismissal was not consistent with the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code and the employer could not provide any evidence that was “sound, defensible or well-founded”.
“The termination was unfair [because of] the absence of a valid reason and the absence of warnings,” he stated.
He said that the company’s procedures were “non-existent” and had “gone to the dogs” and the dismissal was so unfair that “even the dogs in the street know”.
The worker, who subsequently found another job weeks later, was awarded $1,730 in compensation.
Commissioner Johns said it was fortunate that the “earnest, diligent and hard-working” employee was “an attractive hire to a new employer” otherwise the “compensation amount would have been higher”.
“One can only hope that the [company] takes better care of the puppies at their farm than they do of [their staff],” he remarked.