No forced resignation from 'overbearing' boss


No forced resignation from 'overbearing' boss

A Telstra manager's 'demanding' conduct did not force an employee to resign, the AIRC has ruled in finding she had not aired any grievances in the lead up to her leaving work.


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A Telstra manager's 'demanding' conduct did not force an employee to resign, the AIRC has ruled in finding she had not aired any grievances in the lead up to her leaving work.
In April 2009, the worker filed an unfair dismissal claim, alleging that she had 'no choice' but resign due to the conduct of her manager.
She claimed that her manager had been 'overbearing' and 'so demanding' that it amounted to harassment and bullying. The worker pointed to unreasonable work demands and threats to cancel pre-approved leave on two occasions.
This was particularly so, the worker submitted, when she had suffered with breast cancer and depression. The worker alleged her manager failed in giving her workload levels and outcome expectations that gave due consideration to her physical and emotional state arising from her medical issues.
Too exhausted to argue
On her return to work, Telstra had then attempted to put in place a performance improvement plan (PIP).
At a meeting to discuss the draft PIP, the worker informed her manager that she intended to resign.
The worker advised her that she had always wanted to retire at 55 and intended on moving to the Central Coast. Telstra offered her part-time work, which the worker turned down.
She also advised her manager that she wished to leave in a 'low-key manner'.
However, before the AIRC, the worker said Telstra had used the PIP in an 'unreasonable manner', which threatened to compromise her health, leaving her with no other choice but to resign.
At the time of her resignation, the worker said she was 'too exhausted' to stand up for herself and that it was 'clear to her' that there was no prospect that she would be given a 'fair go' and that ultimately she would be terminated.
Telstra denied any allegations of bullying and contended she had not been forced to retire. The company submitted it had shown a 'sympathetic attitude' while the worker underwent treatment and provided the option of working from home and finally offering the possibility of part-time work.
No mention of problems
Commissioner Frank Raffaelli noted that the resignation was not effected in the 'heat of the moment' and that it was a considered decision.
He found that the worker had not mentioned her problems in the meetings held to discuss the PIP and did not at any time 'express any displeasure as to workload, performance outcomes or the conduct of her manager'.
'The only comments from the applicant (worker) were that she sought resignation, and later retirement as a better financial outcome and that she did not want to make a fuss on leaving,' Raffaelli said.
'There was never an attempt made in the weeks leading to her termination by the applicant to raise any concerns including by way of a grievance. She did nothing of the kind.'
Offer of work telling
Further, Raffaelli said there was no evidence that Telstra had not done anything that could be described as forcing the worker to resign.
'It gave her a workload proposal and wanted to sign off on a PIP process. The applicant made no adverse comments in that regard,' the Commissioner said.
'Indeed the respondent (Telstra) offered part-time employment which further tells against any suggestion of a forced resignation.'
Unhappy worker, but not forced
Raffaelli noted that although the worker was clearly 'unhappy' and felt 'aggrieved' with her immediate supervisor, that 'does not translate into Telstra being the driver of the resignation'.
'Even if the conduct of Ms Hinchey (boss) was intolerable — and I do not so find — that would not mean that resignation was the only option available,' Raffaelli said.
'There may have been a range of options which of course were not explored because the applicant did not put her feelings or concerns to the respondent.'
The worker's application was dismissed.
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