Maximum compensation for employee sacked via text message

An employee who was sacked via a text message has been awarded maximum compensation.

The case involved a small business whose owner sacked a store worker by text message in April this year.

The employer claimed to have terminated the worker for misconduct, because her cash register was short on several occasions, and she failed to show up for a shift. However, hearing her claim, the Fair Work Commission found there was "not a jot of evidence" the employer had previously raised any performance issues.

The Fair Work Commission rejected the employer's unfair dismissal defence after uncovering job ads indicating discrimination in favour of Asian-speaking employees. An internet search revealed past advertisements on Chinese-Australian job forums, which included the terms "Asian lady preferred", "Asian staff preferred" and "more prefer overseas people".

The Fair Work Commission found the employer's "real motive for dismissing her was [the owner's] preference to hire staff of Asian-speaking backgrounds".

The Fair Work Commission found at face value, the dismissal likely breached anti-discrimination laws, and was "disgraceful and grossly unfair", while "yet again" reiterating that dismissing any employee by text message is inappropriate.

The owner claimed any compensation order of more than $7,000 would force him to close the business, but Deputy President Sams said, "the Commission is not prepared to accept general, unsupported claims of financial hardship".

He calculated compensation at 26 weeks' pay (the statutory maximum) minus the worker's earnings in her new employment, in arriving at an order of $11,803.01.