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In Barkhazen v Conair Australia Pty Ltd an employee took her personal HR file home in fear that the file may be altered, due to complaints she had made about a fellow employee and about improper or potentially illegal accounting practices engaged in by her employer. [1]

The Fair Work Commission accepted that if the employee genuinely believed that the employer may alter her file due to the complaints she had made, “there could be justification for her removal of her HR file”. However, after the complaints were investigated by the senior managers of the company, and found to be false, there “could be no justification for her retention of the employer’s property.”

The Fair Work Commission noted that the employee could have simply photocopied the content of the file and returned the original to the employer, in order to comply with the lawful and reasonable direction of their employer.

Tips for Employers

Employers should:

  • ensure they have grievance procedures in place to investigate complaints made by employees regarding misconduct
  • seek advice from an employment lawyer about whether your grievance procedures are in line with workplace law
  • train employees in how to validly dismiss an employee under workplace law


If you would like more information about this article or if you would like any assistance in other workplace law matters including contracts of employment and the Fair Work Act, from a workplace lawyer in Sydney, please feel free to speak with or email one of our specialist workplace lawyers on (02) 9635 7966 or

DISCLAIMER: This article is provided to clients and readers for their general information and on a complimentary basis. It contains a brief summary only and should not be relied upon or used as definitive or complete statement of the relevant workplace law.