Dismissed worker lies about headbutting client
Lying to your employer can often lead to a fair dismissal. This is because in Australia, trust and confidence is implied in all employment contracts. It is said that trust and confidence is at the very core of the employer-employee relationship. And even what may be perceived as a relatively small lie, like embellishing your CV, can put your job in jeopardy.
In this article, we share three cases of employees who were caught in the act of lying to their employer. And as you will see, they each suffered the consequences by being fairly dismissed. Below are three examples of mployees dismissed for lying.
Dismissed worker falsely claims car damage caused by head-butting client
In the unfair dismissal case Nichola Harrop v Workpower Incorporated , a Perth-based disability support worker was fired for “fraudulent misconduct.” On 20 April 2023, Nichola Harrop drove her employer’s car to pick up an intellectually disabled client, Mr Lori, to take him bike riding. The duo drove to a car park and they exited the vehicle.
What happened next was in dispute. Ms Harrop claimed that Mr Lori, agitated, proceeded to headbutt the tailgate of her car. Following this incident, they drove back to Workpower Incorporated’s office. Once there, Mr Lori was still in an agitated state and proceeded to headbutt the office wall. Both Ms Harrop and her employer stated to the Fair Work Commission that this was typical behaviour of Mr Lori.
Ms Harrop subsequently filed two incident reports about Mr Lori’s behaviour. Two days later, Workpower asked Ms Harrop to complete a police report and insurance claim, which she did.
Workplace investigation leads to sacking
Workpower conducted an investigation into the headbutting incident on 10 May 2023. This found that there was inconclusive damage to Ms Harrop’s car. The company was not satisfied that the damage could have been caused by Mr Lori. So Workpower sought two independent assessments of the damage.
Based on these assessments, Workpower concluded that Ms Harrop had made up the story about the damage to her car. On 30 June 2023, the company dismissed her for “falsely claiming” that Mr Lori had caused the damage and for her “sustained pattern of deceit.” Believing she had been sacked for telling the truth, Ms Harrop filed an unfair dismissal claim with the Fair Work Commission.
Employer argues worker lied about damage
Workpower argued to the Fair Work Commission that Ms Harrop had been lying about Mr Lori causing the damage to her car. The company relied on the assessments of the damage conducted by independent experts. The experts observed that “despite the level of damage to the vehicle, Mr Lori was…uninjured, calm and appeared to be smiling.”
Workpower also relied on testimony from Mr Lori’s mother. She said that when her son had previously headbutted a car, it never caused any damage. The company also took issue with other elements of Ms Harrop’s story. This included the time that the incident occurred and the amount of time taken to complete all of the activities detailed in her account.
Workpower claimed that Ms Harrop had reiterated her “false claim” on multiple occasions. And that she had exploited the “vulnerability” of Mr Lori. This was because he is “mainly non-verbal and thus unable to defend himself or present his version of events.”
Worker is cross-examined by Fair Work Commission
Ms Harrop did not waver in her claim that she did not fabricate the story about Mr Lori damaging her car. She told the Fair Work Commission that Mr Lori had previously headbutted objects without sustaining injury. Ms Harrop also claimed that he had headbutted her car in September 2022, which left a small dent.
Workpower claimed that the damage to her car was caused either by someone reversing into her, or by her reversing into an object. Ms Harrop rebutted this claim by arguing that there were no other cars in the car park. But Workpower challenged her on this. The company apprised Ms Harrop of evidence it had received from the City of Perth.
This included details of all the parking ticket transactions that had been made in the car park at the time of the incident. But Ms Harrop stuck to her guns and maintained that there were no other cars around when she parked.
Experts say damage inconsistent with headbutt
During the unfair dismissal hearing, the Fair Work Commission learnt of the opinion of Workpower’s mechanic regarding the damage to the car. The mechanic said that “the dent is too sharp for a head-butt.” And if Mr Lori had headbutted the car, he would “have a nasty lump on his head and most likely a hell of a headache.” The mechanic was of the opinion that Ms Harrop had “backed into something or someone had driven into [her car].”
Another independent expert who conducted an assessment of the car concluded that “damage caused by…headbutting the tailgate does not appear consistent.” She said that the damage appeared more consistent with “a 4WD with a spare wheel tyre on the back of the vehicle” that reversed into Ms Harrop’s car.
“Could not have been applied by a human head”
In reaching a final ruling, the Fair Work Commission considered the testimony of Workpower’s mechanic, who said “it would have required a sledgehammer to inflict the level of damage observed.” It was accepted that the level of force needed to inflict the damage “could not have been applied by a human head.”
It was therefore found that the damage to the car “was not caused by Mr Lori.” And that Ms Harrop “has acted fraudulently.” The Fair Work Commission therefore ruled that her sacking was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable.
Senior bank analyst is fired for dishonesty about sandwich
An unfair dismissal case heard by a UK employment tribunal made international headlines recently. It involved a London-based senior analyst for Citibank, Szabolcs Fekete. Mr Fekete had been working for the bank for seven years, specialising in financial crime. He travelled to Amsterdam on a work trip in July 2022. When he returned to London, Mr Fekete made an expense claim for two coffees, two dishes of pasta and two coffees.
However, his manager suspected that he was expensing items that were consumed by two people, rather than just one. When asked about why he had expensed two of each item, Mr Fekete said “I had 2 coffees as they were very small.” He also explained that he had “1 coffee in the morning.” Then “for lunch I had 1 sandwich with a drink and 1 coffee in the restaurant.”
Mr Fekete claimed that he “took another coffee back to the office with me and had the second sandwich in the afternoon… which also served as my dinner.” He told his manager that “all my expenses are within the €100 daily allowance.” And annoyed with his line of questioning, Mr Fekete said “could you please outline what your concern is as I don’t think I have to justify my eating habits to this extent.”
Worker is dismissed for lying about expenses
The manager’s query was not concerning Mr Fekete exceeding his daily expense limit. But rather, he suspected that he had breached Citibank’s expense policy which prohibits the reimbursement of spousal meals. The alleged breach was passed on to the bank’s security and investigation department. This led to Mr Fekete defending himself against further inquiries, including whether he shared a pasta and bolognaise with his partner. He responded by saying “no.”
Mr Fekete would, however, later come clean to the bank. He admitted that he had shared meals with his partner. To explain why he lied, Mr Fekete said that he had been experiencing grief following the death of his grandmother. And that he had been on medication at the time. However, these explanations fell on deaf ears, with Citibank choosing to fire him for gross misconduct.
Worker seeks unfair dismissal claim
Mr Fekete took action via a UK employment tribunal, arguing that he had been unfairly sacked. However, the tribunal did not see it that way. It found that Mr Fekete had chosen to obfuscate when queried about his expenses. It said that he “did not make a full and frank disclosure at the first opportunity and that he did not answer questions directly.”
This was particularly egregious, as Mr Fekete was “employed in a position of trust in a global financial institution.” The tribunal “accept[ed] that the respondent requires a commitment to honesty from its employees.” It therefore rejected Mr Fekete’s unfair dismissal claim.
Worker fired for lying on his CV
The unfair dismissal case Charles Tham v Hertz Australia Pty Limited T/A Hertz  is a lesson for those who dare to embellish their curriculum vitae (CV). On 25 September 2016, Charles Tham applied for a position at Hertz Australia Pty Limited. His CV painted a picture of a successful career, showing regular and stable employment. This however was not a true representation of his employment history. But believing it as true, Hertz extended an offer to Mr Tham for the role of Vehicle Services Attendant.
He began working for Hertz in December 2016 and was required to sign a statement. This outlined that if he made any false representation to the company, it could “result in the withdrawal of an offer of [his] employment or termination of [his] employment.”.
The truth comes out
The lies Mr Tham planted in his CV would come back to haunt him in early 2017. This was when he filed a compensation claim for a workplace injury. He also made multiple complaints to WorkSafe about the “instances of bullying” he had been subjected to at Hertz. The company responded to these by saying the complaints were “completely frivolous.” It also had “concerns with the validity” of his claim and his injury.
These spurious complaints and claims led Hertz to investigate Mr Tham’s employment history. The company discovered that he had been previously fired and had a history of short-lived roles. It also found out that he had previously brought multiple claims against his ex-workplaces. This all conflicted with the information in Mr Tham’s CV. As a result, Hertz made the decision to dismiss Mr Tham. The company cited loss of trust and dishonesty as the reasons.
Worker tries to justify false CV
At Mr Tham’s unfair dismissal hearing, Hertz argued that he had “intentionally misrepresented his employment background.” However, Mr Tham claimed that his sacking was unfair. He gave several reasons why his CV did not match his true employment history. He contended that errors in his CV were unintentional, and he had verbally corrected them with Hertz before accepting the job offer.
Mr Tham stated that he had made “mistakes” in his CV and that he had “incorrectly” sent the wrong one to Hertz. He claimed to be unaware of the potential consequences of false declarations. He also argued that he had not been afforded sufficient time to respond to the allegations brought by Hertz.
“Intentionally misled his employer”
The Fair Work Commission found that the mistakes in Mr Tham’s resume “were not only intentional.” They also “put into question the ability for Hertz to trust [him] to perform [his] role with honesty and integrity.” He was deemed to have “intentionally misled his employer.” And that Mr Tham’s dishonesty was “fundamentally inconsistent with the continuation of the employment relationship.”
The Fair Work Commission acknowledged Mr Tham’s claim of being denied procedural unfairness. But it ultimately concluded that the gravity of the intentional dishonesty superseded any deficiencies in the dismissal process. Mr Tham’s sacking was therefore deemed not harsh, unjust or unreasonable.
Conclusion to: Can lying get you dismissed
As I stated early everybody wants to put their best foot forward, to defend themsleves in the best possible way. It’s how you do it that matters. Avoid the lies!!. Contact A Whole New Approach today. We are not lawyers (nor do we tell lies). For over 30 years, we’ve assisted more than 16,000 Australian workers in every state and territory to take action via the Fair Work Commission. Our services go beyond unfair dismissals, encompassing general protections, forced resignations, redundancy, workplace harassment and more. Call us today on 1800 333 666 for a free and private consultation.