Binding agreement thwarts guard's dismissal claim

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Binding agreement thwarts guard's dismissal claim

A security guard has been prevented from pursuing an unfair dismissal claim because he was bound by an agreement reached at a conciliation hearing.

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A security guard has been prevented from pursuing an unfair dismissal claim because he was bound by an agreement reached at a conciliation hearing.

Background 


Lloyd Baker worked as a security guard for BRI Security. He submitted a claim against his employer for unfair dismissal on 2 June 2017. The application was referred to conciliation on 22 June 2017. 

The terms of the settlement were that BRI would pay the applicant $3460, that Mr Baker's termination would be considered a resignation, that BRI provide Mr Baker with a statement of service and that the application be discontinued. The settlement also provided that Mr Baker enter a Deed of Release and Confidentiality Deed which was to be prepared by the respondent. 

The respondent drafted that deed and sent it Mr Baker to sign on 23 June 2017. The applicant refused to sign the deed and sought to have his application for unfair dismissal reinstated. 

The law 


Where parties have entered into an agreement based on negotiations, then they are bound by those terms of the contract unless a party can show it did not reach finality or that the conclusion of the bargain is subject to a formal contract being executed.  

Under s587 (1) of the Fair Work Act 2009 the Fair Work Commission can dismiss an application if it has no reasonable prospects of success. 

Arguments 


Mr Baker submitted that he was unable to sign the deed as it was full of errors and false statements.

In particular, he referred to the Deed Recital stating that BRI did not admit it was his employer; rather, he was employed by East-West, a company he had not heard of.

He further argued that the deed had omissions and additions which were misleading and, if anything, what was reached at the conciliation was an in-principle agreement i.e. it was not binding.  

BRI argued that an agreement had been reached and Mr Baker was bound by the terms of the settlement. BRI contended that the applicant’s case be dismissed under s587 of the Act. 

Legal questions 


The commission had to determine whether Mr Baker was bound by the deed and whether to allow him to pursue an action of unfair dismissal under s394 of the Fair Work Act 2009.

Decision 


BRI sought to rely on Masters v Cameron (1954) 91 CLR 353 and submitted that the nature of the agreement reached at conciliation falls within either the first or second category of agreements which are binding, despite the absence of a signed deed.

Deputy president Clancy stated: “Mr Baker gave no indication during the conciliation conference that he did not agree with the terms of the settlement and while I accept that he may have not been all that happy with the terms, I do not accept, on the evidence before me, that he was placed under duress.”

The commission further stated that it had the power to dismiss an application if there was a binding agreement between parties on the basis that the application had no reasonable prospects of success. 

Accordingly, it dismissed Mr Baker’s claim. 

Lloyd Baker v Business Risks International Pty Limited T/A BRIsecurity
 
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