Fair Work Commission rejects claim sacked manager in pursuit of sore horse

Rejecting an employer’s extraordinary claim that a farm manager resigned “out of spite” so she could use her Fair Work Commission (FWC) challenge to blackmail it into giving her a horse, the tribunal has held it unfairly dismissed her by forcing her out.

The manager resigned in February 2020 after the employer provided a revised contract reducing hours and changing conditions and reporting lines.

The employer downgraded the farm manager’s position to “rider”, reduced her paid work time by half an hour a day, installed a weekly limit of 37.5 hours and stopped her from directly reporting to the owner.

While the employer told the FWC it only meant to reduce her hours and the rest was a mistake it later withdrew, Commissioner Sarah McKinnon found the contractual changes were deliberately made and accidentally sent before being implemented.

Hours after the farm manager said she was not prepared to sign the contract and sought a meeting to negotiate, the business owner placed an online job advertisement for a “full time horse farm manager”, to work in the same location.

Rejecting evidence it was for a completely new and different role, Commissioner McKinnon said the advertisement was for the farm manager’s role but without riding, describing “almost precisely the same type” of duties as the revised contract.

Read the full case and decision here

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