Law says too bad to unfair dismissal claim

Former Harvey Norman worker Jodi Wilff claims she was unfairly dismissed from her job at the end of July. However businesses with less than 100 employees are now legally allowed to do so.

After two years working for Harvey Norman Lismore, Jodi Wilff is regretting her decision not to join a union. Her old boss was transferred in May, and at the end of July she was fired on the spot for misconduct, which means she may have to wait eight weeks before Centrelink benefits kick in.

She said she is currently surviving thanks to the generosity of her friends.

Jodi strongly denies the allegation of misconduct, and believes she has been treated unfairly, however, because Harvey Norman stores are run on a franchise basis, the Lismore store may be deemed a business with less than 100 workers, leaving her no avenue of redress.

Spokesperson for the Northern Rivers Unionists Network (NRUN), Angela Pollard, said due to the new WorkChoices legislation it was no longer against the law for small businesses to dismiss someone unfairly. Unfair dismissal laws only apply to businesses with 100 workers or more.

You can now sack somebody because you dont like the look on their face, Angela said. As long as its not a Chinese face. You can fire somebody unfairly, but you cant fire them unlawfully. So you cant fire someone because theyre a muslim, or a lesbian, or have a disability. But you would have to prove that was the reason.

Jodi said she was waiting on legal advice to see what avenues were available to her, but at this stage her main focus was getting misconduct removed from her separation certificate, as not only did it mean a non-payment period of eight weeks from Centrelink, but it threatened her future job prospects.

I think its unjust, she said. Ive worked there for two years. I put in a lot of extra work and I think I did a good job. I think a lot of this is going on at the moment. Its irrelevant whether I gain anything from it, I just think its something that needs to be told.

Jodi said she was fired because she was using a Harvey Norman mobile phone a temporary arrangement she had with her previous boss who was transferred in May.

She said she explained the situation to her new boss and offered to pay for the phone on two separate occasions in front of other staff, but was told it would be sorted out later.

I wasnt being sneaky about it, she said. Its a $94 phone. Im not going to jeopardise an entire job for a $94 phone. If it was a theft situation then he has to call the police, which he didnt do.

Jodis boss at Harvey Norman Lismore, John Edgerton, would not comment.

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