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September 2020

Obtaining a loan from a client gives rise to dismissal

Obtaining a loan from a client gives rise to dismissal

Case

Cuculoski v Australian Transit Group T/A Buswest (2020)

Mr Cuculoski was a bus driver for the Australian Transit Group T/A Buswest (Buswest), which operated a shuttle service for Perth’s Crown Casino (Casino). Mr Cuculoski had requested that a patron of the Casino loan him $90, which he promised to pay back the next day. Mr Cuculoski failed to repay the money.

The Casino advised Buswest that it considered Mr Cuculoski’s conduct unacceptable. Buswest arranged a meeting with Mr Cuculoski, and conveyed that Mr Cuculoski’s conduct was inappropriate and damaging to the relationship with the Casino. Buswest attempted to give Mr Cuculoski a warning letter but he refused to accept it. Mr Cuculoski became upset and aggressive, and left the office.

Mr Cuculoski then went to the Casino where he complained about Buswest and the Casino to the Casino’s employees. The Casino again advised Buswest that this conduct was inappropriate. Buswest apologised to the Casino for Mr Cuculoski’s conduct.

Buswest organised a further meeting with Mr Cuculoski. During the meeting, Mr Cuculoski’s conduct was discussed, as well as his failure to comply with Buswest’s Code of Conduct.

At the end of the meeting, Buswest dismissed Mr Cuculoski for serious misconduct. Mr Cuculoski lodged an unfair dismissal claim with the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

Verdict

Mr Cuculoski alleged the dismissal was unfair as the conduct complained of (i.e. borrowing money from a Casino patron, and complaining about Buswest and the Casino to Casino staff) did not occur during Mr Cuculoski’s work hours. Mr Cuculoski indicated that he had repaid the money to the Casino’s patron when he was next rostered to work.

The FWC held that Mr Cuculoski’s out-of-hours conduct was relevant, as it damaged the relationship between Buswest and the Casino. As such, the FWC held that the termination of Mr Cuculoski’s employment was not unfair as there was a valid reason for the dismissal.

Lessons

There are reciprocal obligations that employers and employees owe each other in an employment relationship. One of those obligations is that an employee must not, even out of work hours, engage in conduct that has the potential to damage the employer’s relationship with its clients.

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