A chauffeur at the Indian Consulate in Sydney would not clear out some office files or even hang a picture of Mahatma Gandhi without written instructions from his boss. But the Fair Work Commission found that Hitender Kumar’s conduct did not justify his sacking. The Commission ordered the Consulate of India to pay Mr Kumar $10,620 in compensation for his unfair dismissal in March last year. Mr Kumar retaliated after his employer took issue with him for questioning the use of a consular e-tag on a private car. The e-tag exempted the consular car from road tolls. When Mr Kumar asked for his electronic toll costs to be reimbursed, he was reprimanded for not using the consular vehicle e-tag in a private car while the consular vehicle was being serviced. Mr Kumar then emailed the Roads and Maritime Service which confirmed he could not use the consular e-tag in another car. His employer gave him a warning after he complained to the High Commissioner in Canberra about delays in the approval of his annual leave and the non-payment of a bonus. In response to his contact with the High Commission, he was issued with a series of show-cause notices. He also made a workers compensation claim after allegedly injuring his back lifting heavy boxes. After being sacked for what he claims were “false and petty” reasons, he lodged a claim for unfair dismissal. The acting consul-general tried and failed to have public reporting of the case heard in the Fair Work Commission suppressed to ensure the “government of India’s reputation is not adversely affected”. The Fair Work Commission heard Mr Kumar asked for written instructions before he would hang a photograph of Mahatma Gandhi in the consulate reception area, in an act of “pedantic defiance”. This conduct was viewed as retaliation in response to being reprimanded for seeking advice about the proper use of the consular e-tag. In his final decision, Commissioner Ian Cambridge said Mr Kumar’s retaliatory and insubordinate behaviour could not of itself represent a valid reason for his sacking. “Upon analysis, the dismissal of the applicant was not for valid reason related to his capacity or conduct,” Fair Work Commissioner Ian Cambridge said.
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