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Employment Law – Background

In a Fair Work Commission ruling, a warehouse team leader and Woolworths (MLDC) have both had their requests for legal representation denied, on the basis the unfair dismissal claim was “not complex enough”.

Employment Law – Facts

In essence:

  • The team leader was summarily dismissed in May 2017 for apparently engaging in serious safety breaches, such as going underneath a forklifts tyres and failing to take immediate corrective action or follow standard risk assessment procedures for workplace hazards.
  • In applying for unfair dismissal, the employee sought to be represented by a paid agent on the basis he would struggle to argue his own case or cross-examine witnesses.
  • The employee also argued that it was unfair to deny both parties legal representation because MDLC had in-house HR/IR staff with “superior legal and communication skills”. However MDLC disputed this, highlighting that their in house HR were not legally trained or skilled in advocacy
  • MDLC argued that they required legal representation as it “could not properly articulate all the issues”, and that if the team leaders request was granted, it would create an uneven playing field.

Employment Law – Fair Work Commission Decision:

The Fair Work Commission:

  • denied both parties requests for legal representation as it may create “unnecessary formality”
  • accepted that whilst that whilst there were conflicting facts, the case was one which did not “contain a level of complexity beyond that which would ordinarily be found in a routine unfair dismissal matter”
  • emphasised that refusal of both applications was necessary because it “will not lead to a situation of unfairness for either party.” It was stressed that a there would be a “significant imbalance” between the parties if one party was granted legal representation over the other
  • maintained that both parties were well equipped to represent themselves, in that whilst MDLC are not “legally trained and experienced with advocacy, they are experienced in dealing with employee relations matters”. Similarly, the former employee is an “experienced team leader who was responsible for the management of a significantly large number of employees”

The decision is available for you to read through the hyperlink:

Christian Guillemain v Woolworths Limited T/A Melbourne Liquor Distribution Centre [2017] FWC 4236 (15 August 2017)

Employment Law – Tips for Employers

Our Matthews Folbigg Workplace Solutions employment law team recommends employers:

  • review this Fair Work Commission decision
  • seek the assistance of an employment lawyer to understand the impacts of this Fair Work Commission decision
  • Speak to an employment lawyer about the issue of legal representation should an unfair dismissal claim arise to ensure there are no surprisesraise any employment law questions with an employment lawyer

Employment Law – More Information

Please call the leading employment lawyers in Parramatta, the Matthews Folbigg Workplace Solutions employment law team on 9635-7966 to speak with one of our employment lawyers.