The manager of a jewellery kiosk company could have found a better location than a Donut King outlet to inform an employee she was being made redundant, Fair Work Australia has found.
The nation’s workplace watchdog has ordered Gold Buyers Queensland to compensate former district manager Jennifer Broughton, finding her termination was harsh and unfair.
Gold Buyers Queensland operated a chain of kiosks at shopping centres that purchased jewellery and other precious items, which were on-sold for refining.
At its peak, the company operated 70 kiosks and employed 210 staff including eight district managers, Fair Work Australia heard.
Ms Broughton was hired in September 2009 as a district manager covering the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Toowoomba, but in 2010/11 the business incurred $1.2 million in losses, mostly from areas of the business outside of her control, the watchdog was told.
The directors of the company felt the Queensland business should possibly close, but the regional manager presented a plan to save the business and reduce debt, based on shutting kiosks and reducing staff numbers.
When the “consolidation” work began the business had seven district managers and Ms Broughton was one of those made redundant.
Fair Work Australia was told that on the day of the dismissal, the regional manager phoned Ms Broughton “and arranged to meet at the Donut King outlet which was adjacent to the respondent’s kiosk in the particular shopping centre”.
“[The regional manager’s] reason for the location was his lack of access to an office or board room,” the Fair Work Australia ruling stated.
“The applicant’s evidence is that she found the public location and the presence of [another colleague] to be humiliating. She also felt embarrassed and intimidated.”
Fair Work Australia found the termination did not have anything to do with Ms Broughton’s capacity or conduct, but was part of a response to the operational requirements of the business.
Commissioner Helen Cargill found the company had failed to consider redeploying Ms Broughton or even offering her one of the sales support officer positions.
Ms Cargill also questioned the use of the Donut King store location for the meeting at which the applicant was informed of her dismissal.
“I understand that the business does not have a board room or office premises,” she wrote.
“However a meeting such as this is probably one of the most important interactions between an employer and employee.
“I am sure that somewhere more private could have been arranged.
“For example, the applicant’s evidence was that there was a coffee shop within the shopping centre where previous meetings had taken place. At the very least such a location should have been considered.”
Ms Cargill noted Ms Broughton had found it difficult to find work since the termination and ordered the company to pay her four weeks’ wages, based on her previous annual salary of $60,000.
COMMENT: Getting the sack in public in a Donut King store was a disgraceful way to do business by Gold Buyers Queensland. Congratulations to Jennifer Broughton for taking this company on and finally getting some justice.