Aussie man “fairly dismissed” after hiding work GPS in a Twisties packet

Angus Kidman 22 November 2017
These Twisties are from Malaysia and hence not implicated in the decision discussed here. Great packaging though. Source: Zull Must/Shutterstock.

These Twisties are from Malaysia and hence not implicated in the decision discussed here. Great packaging though. Source: Zull Must/Shutterstock.

We can file this one under "only in Australia".

Decisions by the Fair Work Commission over unfair dismissal are often a minefield of complicated legal claims. However, one handed down this week has a great twist (ahem): an employee who used a Twisties bag to try and stop his workplace GPS from tracking his movements. This might be the biggest snack food-related story since the deluded decision to change the flavour of Shapes.

The decision concerns whether WA contractor Aroona had unfairly dismissed electrician Tom Colella after finding that he had been repeatedly absent from work, allegedly because he was playing golf. Aroona issues all of its field employees with a customised personal digital assistant (PDA) which they can use to log their work, and which also includes a GPS tracking employer location. That's where the Twisties twist comes in.

As commissioner Bernie Riordan wrote:

I have taken into account that Mr Colella openly stored his PDA device in an empty foil "Twisties" bag. As an experienced electrician, Mr Colella knew that this bag would work as a farady cage, thereby preventing the PDA from working properly – especially the provision of regular GPS co-ordinate updates. I note that Mr Colella's supervisors knew that he placed his PDA in the foil bag and that they should have known the effect that this action would have on the PDA device. However, I can find no plausible explanation why Mr Colella would create a faraday cage around his PDA, except to obstruct the GPS collecting capacity of the device. Mr Colella appears to have been deliberately mischievous in acting in this manner.

It's worth noting that the dispute doesn't centre on the Twisties-concealing action and that Riordan was actually judging an appeal over whether Colella had not been given reasonable access to data from the PDA to back up his claims. The commission ruled that while that data should have been provided and that it was impossible to conclude from GPS data alone that he had been absent from work, other factors (such as a lack of phone calls on days when work was supposed to be performed and swipe card data from access sites) were sufficient evidence that he had been absent on three occasions. As a result, the commission dismissed the appeal.

What can we learn from this? Hiding your work phone in a Twisties bag is not a wise idea, clearly. If you don't want to be contacted, it's easier to put your device into flight mode. Also, I now need to go out and buy a packet of Twisties pronto. Key decision: cheese or chicken?

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.

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