A former senior manager at the Bureau of Meteorology claims she was sacked through an illegal sham redundancy.
The bureau sacked the woman after she took two days of approved personal leave while attending a work conference in Paris.
BoM manager sues for sham redundancy
Jasmine Chambers worked as the bureau’s manager of global and national science relationships from November 2018 to December 2020.
Her role included supervising a three-person team responsible for certifying equipment at airports used to produce aviation forecasts.
She is suing her former employer in the Federal Circuit and Family Court claiming the bureau sacked her through a non-genuine redundancy.
Trip to Paris
On Monday, the court heard that in June 2019, Ms Chambers attended a UNESCO conference in Paris.
At the time, her manager, Dr Gilbert Brunet, approved two days personal leave – the first day starting on a Friday and the second a Monday.
The arrangement meant Ms Chambers also enjoyed the weekend in between.
At a subsequent performance review in August 2019, Dr Brunet said that he intended to sack her over the trip.
He told her that she had shown “poor judgment” by taking the leave and “did not consider public perception”.
He also raised concerns that Senate Estimates might question an arrival so many days before an event.
Ms Chambers said she would take out a court injunction if her employment was terminated.
Barrister Tom Brennan SC, for Chambers, told the court that his client arrived in Paris on Thursday and was entitled under the bureau’s policy to take Friday as a rest day, but booked it as a leave day anyway.
In November 2019, Dr Brunet abolished Chambers’ role and redistributed her work to others, leaving her “completely isolated” and with no work to do.
Mr Brennan said the court could find the objective was to get rid of his client “because of the trouble she caused” in standing up for herself.
“Your honour will assess whether it was a sham redundancy or not,” he said.
NEXT READ Redundancy
What is a genuine redundancy?
A genuine redundancy happens when a company doesn’t need an employee’s job to be done by anyone, whether the business slows down, or is restructured.
Importantly, it is the position that is made redundant, not the person.
All awards and agreements require a consultation process to take place before employers make a worker redundant.
During the consultation, the employer must:
- inform employees of proposed changes;
- discuss steps to avoid and minimise negative effects on workers; and
- consider any ideas or suggestions about the changes from the employee.
The employer must also try to redeploy the worker to another position within the business if such a position exists.
On Tuesday, Ms Chambers told the court she would have been happy doing “any activity” after she was made redundant and served out a retention period.
Barrister Sarah Wright, appearing for the bureau, asked: “That includes delivering mail, does it?”
“Yes,” Chambers said.
Redundancy notice and pay
Employers are required to give employees notice of their redundancy, and must provide redundancy pay.
The notice period is the length of time an employer or employee has to give before ending employment.
The amount of notice and redundancy pay depends on the relevant award or agreement.
An employer can let an employee work until the end of the notice period, however, they can also pay the worker out in lieu of notice.
A non-genuine redundancy
A redundancy is not genuine if the business still needs someone to do the employee’s job.
For example, they hire a new person to do the same job.
A redundancy is also non-genuine if the employer fails to consult with the worker under the terms of the award or agreement.
Finally, a redundancy is non-genuine if the employer could have given the worker another job within the business.
Workers sacked through a non-genuine redundancy are eligible to make an unfair dismissal claim.
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