In today’s competitive labor market, many job seekers are resorting to fabricating their skills or falsifying their work history on their CV in an effort to land their dream job. However, this leaves employers exposed to great risk. In a recent case before the FWC, it was agreed that Spectrum Community Focus had a valid reason to dismiss their finance manager. However, it was decided that the dismissal was unfair because the termination was incorrectly categorized as serious misconduct rather than poor performance.
The employee, who falsely claimed that her qualifications included ‘ASA – CPA Australia’, was responsible for preparing financial reports for all 12 entities related to Spectrum Community Outcomes (SCO).
However, she was summarily dismissed following a series of allegations that concerned her poor performance at work. It was found that she failed to file the company’s return to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) within the required time frame. Despite her Managing Director’s ability to negotiate a delayed lodgment date, the employee still managed to lodge the return two days late. As a result, the companies Public Benevolent Institution (PBI) status was placed in jeopardy, causing the company ‘serious damage’. It was also discovered that she incorrectly completed a report that showed a company loss of over $600,000, but she failed to tell her managing director. Her latest reports also reported a loss of $86,000 when the correct position was actually a profit of $322,908. Further, in a general meeting with the board of the directors, the employee presented incorrect and confidential financial information about the company and its subsidiaries, while erroneously claiming that cash flow was negative and would remain in that state in the upcoming weeks.
When these allegations were put to the employee, she cast blame for her shortcomings upon others. The severity of the allegations, coupled with her attitude and reluctance to accept responsibility for her actions, lead to the decision that her employment would be terminated for “serious misconduct”. However, the FWC agreed that the reasons for the dismissal would have been more appropriately categorized as poor performance. The employee was never warned for poor performance. Had she been, this would justify that she be afforded notice of termination/payment in lieu of notice rather than being dismissed on the spot.
But, the FWC considered it inappropriate to award the employee compensation because it was later discovered that when she applied to work for the company, she lied on her CV about her qualifications. She claimed that her qualifications included "ASA–CPA Australia" and she had an MBA. However, she was only a CPA in the Philippines. In light of this information, the FWC commented that her “poor performance was due to the fact that she was 'out of her depth' in performing the finance managers role”.
Lessons for employers
- From the outset, identity the skills and qualifications that are required for effective performance of the job. Ensure job seekers are able to fulfil these requirements.
- Employers should assess all CV’s and conduct reference/background checks. Prior to engagement, it is also recommended that past employers be contacted.
- Where minor performance concerns are noted, it may be simply related to the fact that the employee never learnt the skill or it was learned incorrectly. Consider whether it is feasible to send the employee for further training and skill development.
- As an employer, consider whether you are able to personally assist the employee in steering them in the right direction.
- Where serious and ongoing performance related concerns are evident, rigorously follow a performance management process before any decision to terminate is implemented.
 Emma Valenzuela v Spectrum Community Focus Limited t/as Spectrum Community Focus  FWC 5007 (4 October 2017).