History of warnings justifies dismissal

22 March 2019

Emrah Bilgi was employed by CDC for around three years and had an extensive history of warnings about his performance/behaviour. His employment was ultimately terminated after an incident in which he stopped his bus mid-route, advised passengers to walk and made negative comments about his employer.

Bilgi made an unfair dismissal claim against CDC, alleging that his behaviour was a result of work-related stress. It was held however that CDC had a valid reason for terminating his employment and that the dismissal was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable.

In issue

  • Whether there was a valid reason for the dismissal
  • Whether Mr Bilgi’s alleged stress rendered the dismissal harsh, unjust or unreasonable

The background

Mr Bilgi had been employed as a bus driver by CDC Tullamarine for around three years before he was dismissed following an incident while on duty.

Mr Bilgi pulled into a bus stop, mid-route, and called the CDC operations centre by radio to advise that he was stressed and that he wished to return the bus back to Broadmeadows depot and be replaced by another driver. He also made further complaints about the seatbelt on the bus which he had previously reported as faulty.

Whilst waiting for a response he complained to various passengers about the treatment he had received from CDC and instructed passengers, including school children, to walk.

CDC sent a replacement bus and driver to Mr Bilgi’s location, but Mr Bilgi refused to return to the depot.

Mr Bilgi was later invited to review the CCTV footage and was given an opportunity to respond to allegations that his conduct/performance was unacceptable. CDC subsequently dismissed Mr Bilgi, who then made an unfair dismissal claim in the Fair Work Commission.

The decision at hearing

Mr Bilgi alleged that he was under considerable stress, and therefore considered it safer for the passengers to walk. Mr Bilgi also alleged that the seatbelt was faulty, which he had earlier reported, which caused him to injure his neck and shoulder as he approached a roundabout.

However, Mr Bilgi’s evidence was largely discredited by the CCTV footage and audio recordings.

In finding there was a valid reason for the dismissal, Commissioner Bissett noted Mr Bilgi’s employment history; in particular, that Mr Bilgi had received multiple warnings about his behaviour and performance, including in relation to an incident where he left the bus running with keys in the ignition and a passenger on board while he went to an ATM to get his lunch money.

Mr Bilgi failed to provide substantive medical evidence supporting his alleged medical condition, and the Commissioner otherwise found no issue with the CDC’s termination process.

In light of all the circumstances, the dismissal was found to be fair and Mr Bilgi’s application was dismissed.

Implications for you

This decision emphasises the importance for employers to take comprehensive steps prior to the termination of employment.

While the incident involving Mr Bilgi gave rise to a claim of unfair dismissal, it was CDC’s comprehensive performance management and termination process that put them in a position to successfully defend the claim.

Emrah Bilgi v CDC Tullamarine Pty Ltd T/A CDC Tullamarine [2019] FWC 290

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