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RMIT University Dismissal Case Reveals Flaws in Redundancy Policy

Employers have been warned to be very careful when organising or initiating redundancies against employees, after a Federal Court case in which RMIT University received a $37,000 fine.

According to Andrew Douglas, principal of M+K Lawyers, businesses cannot use personal reasons as a motivator or trigger for redundancy. Small businesses in particular should be wary, as redundancies can only be used in very specific circumstances.

One prime example is the court case of RMIT University vs Professor Judith Bessant. The court heard that tension developed between Bessant and the school’s head, Professor David Hayward, during a reorganisation of the school in which they both worked.

Over time, the disagreements between Bessant and Hayward escalated to the point where Bessant was granted a meeting with Vice-Chancellor Margaret Gardner. Meanwhile, Hayward had begun preparations for Professor Bessant’s redundancy.

The court heard that Hayward informed Bessant that he was removing her from the position of Discipline Head. Upon reading the news in an email, Bessant was so shocked that she fainted and knocked out one of her teeth.

Ruling in favour of Bessant, Justice Gray found the “lack of a clear and cogent process of reasoning” for Bessant’s redundancy to be one of the most alarming aspects of the case.



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