The Federal Magistrates’ Court has found that a restructuring process and the subsequent dismissal of an employee may have been unfair, subjective and lacking in transparency, but the dismissal was not motivated by a prohibited reason, so it did not constitute a breach of the Fair Work Act’s general protections provisions.

The employee was on annual leave and long service leave caring for his family when the company decided to merge his position with another position into a single role.  His manager gave evidence that another internal candidate was chosen over the employee for the new role due to his stronger customer relationships and a perceived better ability to identify and propose transactions.

The employee filed an adverse action claim, alleging that a reason for the decision not to appoint him to the new role was because he had exercised his right to take leave.  He also argued this was a reason for a decision to give him a performance ranking which made him ineligible for a bonus that year.

The Court found that:

  • there was nothing in the evidence of the manager to suggest that the absence of the employee from work due to family responsibilities was a reason for the decision.  The blank denial by the manager that he made the decision for this prohibited reason carried weight as it was not seriously challenged and that decision was coupled with reasons which were rational and believable; and
  • although the employee’s absence on leave was a factor in the ranking which led to him being denied a bonus, the Court was not satisfied that the ranking would have been different had he been afforded credit for his performance results during his absence which were attributable to his prior work.