A recent decision of the Fair Work Commission upheld an employer’s decision to terminate an employee for safety reasons.
In Salvanah Bennie v Sunnyhaven Disability Services Ltd (2021), Sunnyhaven Disability Service (the employer) successfully defended an unfair dismissal claim brought by one of its employees. The employee had been dismissed after being found sleeping on duty and neglecting her work.
The employer offers a range of accommodation programs for people with a disability. The employee was a team leader who, prior to her employment termination, received a written warning for failing to administer medication to a resident who required a dose of insulin once a week.
The employer discovered that the employee was sleeping while on shift, which led to her failure to administer the medication. After reviewing CCTV footage, it was discovered that the employee had breached safety obligations in a number of respects, including sleeping for 90 minutes and failing to follow COVID-19 procedures by allowing an external party to enter the premises without checking their temperature.
In its evidence, the employer alleged that the employee slept for 90 minutes, leaving the residents unattended. The employee argued that she had fallen asleep for 60 minutes only because she was fatigued due to working excessive hours.
The Fair Work Commission found that neither the 60-minute nor 90-minute period of time was acceptable, and either period constituted an unacceptable breach of procedures and therefore provided a valid reason for dismissal. The Commission found that the employee’s conduct caused serious and imminent risks to the health and safety of the residents.