A Salvation Army store manager has been awarded more than $22,000 compensation after being unfairly dismissed for stealing – which was allegedly captured on CCTV.
The Salvos had claimed the worker was caught red-handed by a surveillance camera pocketing $200 cash while serving a customer – only problem, that’s not what the footage actually showed.
Jennifer Walker had worked for the Salvos as a manager for more than 10 years when the incident happened in its Lidcombe furniture outlet in Sydney.
Ms Walker had been walking around the store with a customer who was selecting a number of items that he wanted to buy, which in the end totalled $200.
He told Ms Walker that he would return to the store the following week to keep shopping after new stock had been delivered.
When he came back, he told another staff member that he had already paid Ms Walker for the furniture, but said she didn’t give him a receipt.
CCTV footage didn’t support Salvo’s claim
A suspicious area manager examined CCTV footage from the day, and concluded that it showed Ms Walker holding four $50 notes and then putting them into her apron.
Ms Walker wasn’t shown the footage before the Salvos terminated her employment for serious misconduct.
Adamant that the customer didn’t give her any money, she lodged a complaint for unfair dismissal in the Fair Work Commission where the CCTV vision was analysed in detail.
The Commission concluded that Ms Walker can be seen holding one $50 note, not four, and there was no evidence that it was given to her by the customer.
Under cross examination, the area manager conceded that he was wrong to believe that the footage showed Ms Walker was holding four $50 notes, and he also admitted that it never crossed his mind that the customer might be trying to get something for free.
Commission critical of how Salvos handled the matter
Senior deputy vice president Jonathan Hamberger was critical of how the Salvation Army handled the matter, saying it was “surprising” the organisation would take the word of a customer over a long standing employee.
“At the very least it would have been preferable if the applicant had been given a better opportunity to examine the CCTV footage and give her own account of what happened prior to her dismissal.”
Mr Hamberger found that rather than convicting her, the CCTV footage actually exonerated Ms Walker.
“I am satisfied, based on the evidence presented to me in the proceedings, that the applicant did not receive any money from [the customer],” he said.
“It follows that she was not guilty of misconduct and the respondent had no valid reason for her dismissal.”
Case should serve as a warning to employers
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Industrial Relations Claims, said the case should serve as a warning to employers who want to rely on surveillance footage to dismiss staff.
“The eyes can be deceiving – in this case, it seems the employer saw something in the footage that wasn’t actually there,” he said.
“Not only was there no evidence that the worker had stolen the money, the Salvos didn’t give her a fair go by showing her the footage and allowing her to respond with her version of events.
“It’s basic HR stuff, but it’s amazing how many businesses still get it so wrong.
“Employees who have been accused of serious misconduct based on CCTV footage, should always demand to see the evidence.”
Mr Hamberger concluded that Ms Walker’s dismissal was “unjust and unreasonable” and ordered the Salvos to pay her $22,405 compensation.
If you have been unfairly dismissed from employment, we can help.
Please call our team at Industrial Relations Claims today on
1300 045 466