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Worker dismissed over ‘extraordinary’ number of private texts


The Fair Work Commission delivered its judgment this week. Photo: AAP Image/James Ross
The Fair Work Commission delivered its judgment this week. Photo: AAP Image/James Ross

The workplace umpire has upheld the sacking of a woman who sent an “extraordinary” amount of personal text messages while on the job.

Lynda Murphy was being paid $48 an hour as a health, safety, environment and training manager when she was dismissed in August after just eight months.

Phone records before the Fair Work Commission show she sent 1260 personal messages in two months alone, with 80 sent in one day while working for Queensland company Clear Day Pty Ltd.

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“On 14 June 2021, Ms Murphy sent 73 text messages between 8:17am and 12:48pm. Having seen how regularly she sent text messages that morning, it is impossible to believe that Ms Murphy did any work at all,” Commissioner Jennifer Hunt said in her ruling.

Lynda Murphy was dismissed after sending too many personal texts at work.
Lynda Murphy was dismissed after sending too many personal texts at work.

The Fair Work Commission heard Ms Murphy began renting out a cottage on her Airbnb property two months after she was hired.

A digital platform then contacted her to see if she would allow caravaners to park on her property and she agreed, starting a private farm-stay business.

The Shiralee Clydesdale & Farm Stay quickly took off and she hired people to manage it on her behalf.

But she was soon fielding numerous calls during work time about her business, prompting her boss to issue a verbal warning to her in July.

Boss Paula Barlow told her to put her phone away while at work.

Ms Murphy acknowledged via email her phone was “feral with calls” but told her boss she’d put plans in place to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

The Fair Work Commission this week found the dismissal was justified.
The Fair Work Commission this week found the dismissal was justified.

However, Ms Barlow told the FWC the behaviour restarted a week later, prompting her to sack Ms Murphy.

Ms Murphy argued before the FWC her dismissal was unreasonable and denied spending “a lot” of time on work for her personal business during work hours.

She agreed she did work for her private business while at work, but this was offset by working past her finishing time.

But Commissioner Jennifer Hunt disagreed, finding her dismissal justified.

“The telephone data does not lie,” she said.

“The amount of text messages Ms Murphy made alone, let alone received and read, was extraordinary and unacceptable.

“It was not uncommon for her to send 50+ text messages daily on account of her personal and Farm Stay matters.”

Lynda Murphy argued her dismissal was unfair.
Lynda Murphy argued her dismissal was unfair.

Commissioner Hunt said Ms Murphy continued to send an “extraordinary” amount of texts during work hours despite her boss’s lawful and reasonable instruction not to use her phone.

She also failed to dedicate her full time and attention to her work responsibility.

Commissioner Hunt was satisfied Ms Murphy was told of the reasons for her dismissal, but noted she was not given a chance to respond to the reasons why.

She rejected Ms Murphy’s evidence that she considered the conversation with her boss, in which her boss delivered a verbal warning, was just a “talk”.

The commissioner said there was no doubt Ms Murphy should have received a written warning so there was clear evidence between the parties and Ms Murphy knew exactly the matters she had to address.

Sydney

Melissa Iaria worked in suburban and regional journalism before joining the Australian Associated Press for a 13-year career, serving as Melbourne chief of staff and reporting on courts, politics, entertainment… Read more

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