FWC backtracks on fingerprint scanner decision

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FWC backtracks on fingerprint scanner decision

A worker has been given the opportunity to challenge a decision that he was validly dismissed for refusing to use a new fingerprint scanner sign-in system.

A worker has been given the opportunity to challenge a decision that he was validly dismissed for refusing to use a fingerprint scanner sign-in system.

Jeremy Lee was a casual general hand at Superior Wood in Queensland when he was sacked for refusing to use biometric fingerprint scanning to record site attendance.

Technology ‘reasonably necessary’


In the original decision in November 2018 the Fair Work Commission found that Super Wood’s policy requiring workers to use a fingerprint scanner to be reasonable, and therefore Mr Lee’s dismissal was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable. 

According to the commissioner in the original judgment, the scanning system provided a safer signing-in system as it allowed supervisors to see who was on-site immediately. Therefore, the commissioner found the technology to be ‘reasonably necessary,’ however, noted that employees should have been issued a collection notice in accordance with the Privacy Act. 

Did the scanning system improve safety?


The decision was appealed on the grounds that it set a precedent which “legitimises and legalises the taking of employees' sensitive information by employers.”

On 17 January, Mr Lee was granted the right to appeal on the grounds that the commissioner was mistaken in its reasoning that the fingerprint scanner sign-in system was safer than a paper system. This was evident in the fact that the employees had used the paper system in a recent fire alarm site evacuation. This old system was used in preference to the already operational scanner system.

According to the commission, this proved that, in reality, even the employer did not consider that the new scanner system improved site safety.

Therefore use of the scanner to collect sensitive data was not ‘reasonably necessary’ and Mr Lee was granted the right to appeal. 

Read the judgment


Jeremy Lee v Superior Wood Pty Ltd t/a Superior Wood (C2018/6600)[2019] FWCFB 95 
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