Salesman dismissed for breach of fuel card policy

A used-car salesman was dismissed following an investigation into his company fuel card use. Unleaded petrol had been purchased on two occasions, despite the fact he was instructed to drive a diesel company car.

The employee denied being told to only drive the diesel vehicle and submitted he drove a multitude of unleaded vehicles. He used the fuel card to purchase petrol for those vehicles, but admitted to occasionally using the card to purchase fuel for his own vehicle on weekends.

The Fair Work Commission (Commissioner Riordan) found there was a valid reason for dismissal due to the applicant’s breach of the fuel card policy on the weekends. However, there had not been procedural fairness because the applicant was not given an opportunity to respond.

The Commission took into account that the employer did not enforce a vehicle log book policy and did not attempt to source CCTV footage from the petrol station for many weeks after the alleged misuses of the petrol card. The applicant was awarded four weeks’ pay plus superannuation.

Lessons for employers

Even ‘theft’ against an employer can have its rewards given the outcome from this decision. It shows how difficult it can be to satisfy the independent tribunal that not only did the employer have a proper and valid reason for terminating an employee’s employment, but also that fair process was followed. The issue of managing employee performance and termination of an employee’s employment will be the subject of examination at REEF’s employment training program on 27 September 2016.