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If an employee takes a personnel file from their employee and refuses to return it when requested to do so by their employer, this may be grounds for dismissal under workplace law.

In Barkhazen v Conair Australia Pty Ltd the Fair Work Commission has found that an employee who took her own personnel file from her workplace and refused to return it after she was requested to do so at least seven times by her employer, was validly dismissed under workplace law, for failing to comply with a lawful and reasonable direction of the employer.[1]

The Fair Work Commission found in favour of the employer, as despite the employer’s numerous attempts to get the employee to return the file, the employee ignored this. The employee did not provide the employer with any confirmation that she had the file and that she would return it. The Fair Work Commission noted that the employer was entitled to assume that the lack of response from the employee regarding the file, constituted a refusal to comply with the direction regarding the return of the file.

Tips for Employers

Employers considering dismissing an employee for similar conduct should:

  • ensure they make requests for the return of any property in writing
  • set reasonable timelines for when the employee must return the property
  • seek advice from an employment lawyer in order to ensure that the dismissal will be in line with workplace law


If you would like more information about this article or if you would like any assistance in other workplace law matters including employment contracts and immigration law, from an employment lawyer in Sydney, please feel free to speak with or email one of our specialist employment 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.