Negative google review leads to poor dismissal

25 July 2022

The Fair Work Commission has found that an employee was unfairly dismissed because of two negative Google reviews received by the business. The dismissal did not show evidence of serious misconduct or a reason for dismissal that is ‘sound, defensible or well founded.’

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An employee was dismissed in June 2021, subsequently lodging an unfair dismissal claim which alleged the lack of opportunity for procedural fairness and the absence of a valid reason.

The Office Manager stated that the employee’s colleagues did not want to attend the office or deal with employee due to her ‘rudeness’. The business also claimed to review two negative Google reviews about the employee, however had never followed up with the author of the reviews.

The Office Manager initially gave the employee a verbal warning, followed by an 'Employee Warning Notice’ a week later in May 2021. The Manager claimed it was in relation to the employee’s 'disrespect' towards other employees but failed to provide any further evidence and did not allow the employee to address these accusations.

The Office Manager later decided to dismiss the employee due to an incident of “serious harassment” to another employee which she claimed to witness. In considering this incident along with two negative Google reviews and interactions with other staff working, the Office Manager suggested to the Managing Director that the employee should be fired.

The employee was subsequently handed a termination letter on 20 June 2021 by the Office Manager. Following the receipt of this letter, the employee called the Managing Director who refused to provide any further explanation as to why she was terminated and hung up on her.

The employee received another termination letter on 13 August which was significantly different to the original letter. This letter referred to the employee having disagreements with customers, receiving bad Google reviews, and demonstrating an unacceptable pattern of behaviour.

She had not received any warnings that her employment was at risk due to any conduct or performance concerns and was not given an opportunity to respond to the allegations made against her before her termination.

The decision

The Commission found that the employee had been unfairly dismissed as there was no valid reason for dismissal. It was found that in the first Google review the employee had not spoken to that specific customer. In the second Google review the employee did speak to the customer who was unhappy she couldn’t receive immediate service which was outside the employee’s control.

The employee was denied procedural fairness as she was not given an opportunity to provide clarity around the Google review. She had not received any warning in relation to her conduct nor had she been told that her employment was at risk of dismissal.

Learnings for business

This case highlights the importance of affording procedural fairness to an employee and ensuring that there is a valid reason for dismissal. An employee should have the opportunity to respond and should be aware if their employment is at risk.

How the Victorian Chamber can help

Unfair dismissal cases can be both costly and time consuming to any business. Before you take any action, please call the Victorian Chamber Workplace Relations Advice Line on (03) 8662 5222 to discuss your obligations. Our experienced Workplace Relations Consultants can also assist you with strategic guidance in managing employees and navigating unfair dismissal claims.

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