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Fair Work Awards Costs Against Worker After Losing Unfair Dismissal

Fair Work awards costs against worker after losing unfair dismissal

The Fair Work Commission has awarded costs against a worker who brought an unfair dismissal claim against her employer.

The ruling is unusual because most unfair dismissal claims do not result in the awarding of costs to one party or the other.

Fair Work awards costs against worker

RNTT, which trades as Jobs Statewide Employment Solutions, sacked Joan Obuchowski in December 2017.

She subsequently lost her unfair dismissal claim in May 2018.

The Commission found that Ms Obuchowski, together with her husband who also worked for the company, “knowingly breached the respondent’s confidentiality and information technology policies”.

Senior deputy president Jonathan Hamberger said:

“She attended the respondent’s premises after she had decided that she would never be returning to work for them and physically removed at least one document and notebooks containing job seekers’ personal information from those premises. 

“She also deleted and directed her husband to delete emails and documents from the respondent’s computer system.”


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WHAT MAKES A DISMISSAL UNFAIR?


Employer applies for costs

Following the decision, RNTT applied to the Commission for costs it incurred to defend the claim.

Mr Hamberger found Ms Obuchowski should have known her unfair dismissal application had no reasonable grounds for success.

He therefore ordered her to reimburse the business for its costs:

“In circumstances where Ms Obuchowski relied on factual assertions that she knew to be untrue, it is reasonable to conclude that her case was so lacking in merit or substance as to be not reasonably arguable. 

“It follows that it should have been reasonably apparent to her that her application had no reasonable prospect of success. 

“I consider that a costs order is appropriate in the circumstances.”


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READ DEPUTY PRESIDENT HAMBERGER’S DECISION


Lesson for workers

Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Industrial Relations Claims says costs rulings are rare.

“Although the Commission has provisions to award costs where claims are deemed to be false or vexatious, it is rare to see it happen,” he said.

“Normally each party is left to cover their own costs in cases brought before the Commission.

“The lesson for workers is that you can’t just file a claim for the sake of it, otherwise you might be out of pocket.”

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