Refusal To Attend Investigation Interview Reasonably Leads To Dismissal

Khoder Abdulrahim v QBE Management Services Pty Limited (QBE) (2016), Mr Abdulrahim was a QBE employee and purchased a discounted motor vehicle insurance policy for his father’s car under QBE’s employee insurance program.

Mr Abdulrahim made an insurance claim on behalf of his father, with the repairs for the vehicle being conducted by the panel beating business owned by Mr Abdulrahim. The quoted repairs came to $38,000.

Upon investigation, QBE discovered that 24 motor vehicle claims (totalling over $106,000 in damages) and two household claims (totalling more than $15,000 in damages) had been made from Mr Abdulrahim father’s residential address. In addition, the bank account nominated for five of those QBE motor vehicle insurance claims was in Mr Abdulrahim’s name. Accordingly, QBE asked Mr Abdulrahim to participate in an interview. Mr Abdulrahim refused, saying that he was neither the policy-holder nor was he involved in the accident, and therefore, he would be of no assistance to the investigation.

QBE directed Mr Abdulrahim to participate in the interview, warning him that if he did not, disciplinary action could be taken against him, which included the termination of his employment. Mr Abdulrahim still refused and was summarily dismissed.

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) held that, given the circumstances, the direction for Mr Abdulrahim to participate in the investigation interview was lawful and reasonable, thus dismissal was in line with the Fair Work Regulations 2010 (Cth). That is, QBE was permitted to dismiss Mr Abdulrahim for his repeated failure to comply with its lawful and reasonable direction to attend an interview and Mr Abdulrahim was pre-warned that dismissal may result for failing to attend.

The key point to take away from this is that employers can lawfully dismiss an employee for failure to follow a lawful and reasonable direction. However, the question becomes what is a lawful and reasonable direction. A written employment contract and detailed policies and procedures can help address these issues.

Written by Michael Turnell