“You are a horrible human being. Just wait for karma to come back and bite you in the ass.” Notice of dismissal, or not?
If you felt sorry for Carrie Bradshaw as she was dumped by post-it note in Sex and the City, spare a thought for Sheridan Corrie, whose employment in Australia was terminated, probably deliberately, by Facebook message.
When Ms Corrie responded to the message above to ask what she had done, she was told that “If it’s true that you’re engaged whilst still being married, we all think (Blair included) that it’s inappropriate for you to come back to work“. Both posts came from Lana Denys, daughter of Blair, one of the Company’s two directors.
At the time, Ms Corrie was on annual leave, her marriage to the nephew of one of the Directors had recently ended, and she had become engaged to someone else within just a few months. Quick work indeed, but was it really the employer’s business, let alone that of one director’s daughter?
The following day, in seeming reinforcement of the message, Ms Corrie’s work mobile phone was disconnected and her pay stopped. She brought an unfair dismissal claim, in response to which the Company stated that she had “too hastily become engaged again“, and that this had upset Lana Denys.
As a threshold issue, the Fair Work Commission in Melbourne was required to consider whether the Facebook messages constituted a dismissal in the first place. It was satisfied that they did. Although Lana Denys was not a manager and so had no positional authority to dismiss Ms Corrie, both of the two Directors were aware of the messages she had sent and each understood that Ms Corrie believed that she had been dismissed with their authority. Neither took any action to correct that misunderstanding, if misunderstanding it had been. The dismissal was considered to have become effective the following day when she ceased to be paid and her work phone was cut off.
Having determined that Ms Corrie was dismissed by the employer, the claim will now be allocated to a member of the Commission to determine whether dismissal was fair or not. This will include considering whether an employee’s moving on too quickly in her personal life is a valid reason for dismissal – this sounds silly, but it is potentially arguable if the dumping of the nephew had been in such a way or for such a reason (like being engaged to someone else, perhaps? – just a thought, of course) that irreparable damage would be done to the close working relationships necessary within a very small company like this – and also whether the Facebook messages really gave Ms Corrie the opportunity to respond which a fair dismissal requires. Watch this space!