Dismissed for allegedly defacing security camera

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Dismissed for allegedly defacing security camera

A truck driver who was unfairly dismissed for allegedly defacing a company security camera has been awarded $46K compensation.

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A truck driver who was unfairly dismissed for allegedly defacing a company security camera has been awarded compensation.

The Fair Work Commission found the employer had acted only on circumstantial evidence. 

Objected to invasion of privacy


In 2015, a company that operated prime movers decided to install cameras facing the drivers in its trucks. The cameras were designed to be switched on when unexpected incidents occurred.

One of the drivers employed by the company was particularly vocal in his objection to the cameras. He had wrongly believed they would be constantly recording and claimed that would be an invasion of a driver’s privacy. 

In April 2016, the driver was accused of having sprayed something on the camera lens in a truck during an earlier shift. The employer believed he had wilfully disabled the camera and considered terminating his employment.

The worker insisted he had not done it, but was stood down and subsequently dismissed on 29 April 2016 for ‘defacing a safety device’.

The driver applied to the Fair Work Commission for relief from unfair dismissal according to s394 of the Fair Work Act 2009. He submitted that the employer had not produced any evidence to contradict his denial that he had been involved, so the company did not have a valid reason to dismiss him.

He also submitted that even if the Commission found he had been responsible, dismissal had been a disproportionate measure. After all, the lens had been cleaned and the camera had not been damaged.

Investigation not reasonable


Commissioner Gregory established that the employer had not conducted a reasonable investigation. It was thought the spray on the camera lens had been deodorant, but no test had been carried out to identify the substance and the employer had not taken up the driver’s offer to check his bag to see if he had deodorant with him. Also, no enquiries had been made about whether it had been difficult to clean the lens.

The driver pointed out there had been opportunities for other people to enter the truck, for example while he was unloading. He also said it made no sense for him to interfere with the camera. Not only could he have been found out, but if he wanted to shield himself from view he could simply have lowered the truck’s sun visor.

Reason to dismiss has to be objectively valid


Commissioner Gregory stated it was not enough for an employer to believe it had a valid reason for termination. The reason also had to be objectively valid.

In this case, the employer had acted only on circumstantial evidence. The commissioner was not satisfied an objective analysis of the facts could conclude the driver had been responsible.

Consequently, the dismissal had been harsh and unreasonable.

In considering a remedy, the commissioner accepted the employer was not likely to accept the driver was not responsible, so reinstatement was not an option. Instead the commissioner ordered the employer to pay the driver $46,151 compensation.

M v K & S Freighters Py Ltd [2017] FWC 105 (6 January 2017)
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