Performance issues justified dismissal


Performance issues justified dismissal

An employee who was performance managed for almost 12 months was not unfairly dismissed, the Fair Work Commission has ruled.


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An employee who was performance managed for almost 12 months was not unfairly dismissed, the Fair Work Commission has ruled.

The employer had clearly communicated its performance expectations, and endeavoured to assist the worker to achieve them.


Robert Etienne was employed as an inventory controllory by Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) in September 2014.

After 12 months in the job, it became clear Mt Etienne lacked the necessary skills, capabilities and knowledge to adequately perform his role.

FMG said his manner and attitude to customers and colleagues was also unsatisfactory.

The company claimed Mr Etienne:
  • could not grasp the concepts and transactions central to his role
  • did not comply with business processes
  • was unable to prioritise his duties appropriately, and
  • was incapable of building and maintaining effective working relationships. 
Despite being given extra training and coaching, and being informally performance managed, Mr Etienne's performance did not improve. In May 2016 he was placed on a performance improvement plan (PIP).

In July 2016 managers met with Mr Etienne to discuss the PIP. They explained their ongoing concerns about his performance and the steps they had taken to try to improve his performance.

The day after the meeting, Mr Etienne sent an email to HR expressing his surprise at being placed on a PIP  and saying that "as an employee I believe I have done all that is expected."

He continually refused to acknowledge any deficiencies in his performance and denied that performance issues had been raised at the meeting. He also denied he had been the subject of any formal or informal management or coaching.

In August 2016 managers again met with Mt Etienne's to discuss his email, his response to the PIP and his ongoing employment. As Mr Etienne didn't say anything to convince his superiors the employment relationship was workable, he was terminated effective that day.

Mr Etienne made an unfair dismissal application to the Commission, seeking reinstatement and compensation for lost remuneration.


Deputy president Melanie Binet was satisfied that FMG had genuine and reasonable concerns about Mr Etienne's capabilities and had attempted to address the deficiencies in his performance.

"I am satisfied that in the course of extended informal performance management, the PIP meeting and the termination meeting... that FMG endeavoured to make Mr Etienne aware of FMG’s concerns in relation to his work performance, the reasons why his employment was a risk and, subsequently, the reasons why it proposed to terminate his employment."

She ruled the dismissal had not been unfair.

Mr Robert Etienne v FMG Personnel Services Pty Ltd (U2016/10522)

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