There are many scary stories about bosses using computer programs to watch people working from home. But one woman experienced this firsthand. Her company, a big insurance company, used a special tool to see if she was working enough hours on her laptop. Unfortunately, things didn't go well for her.
Woman Fired From Job For 'Not Typing Enough' While Working From Home
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has turned down a claim of unfair dismissal made by Suzie Cheikho, a former consultant at Insurance Australia Group (IAG). The commission concluded that her termination was justified due to "misconduct."
In a report, the FWC explained that Cheikho had important jobs at the company. She made insurance papers, followed rules about when things needed to be done, and made sure people were working correctly from home.
Interestingly, her own performance while working from home became the reason her 18-year career at the company came to an end.
Based on the FWC's discoveries, Cheikho was dismissed on February 20. The reasons included not meeting deadlines and attending meetings, being absent and unreachable, and not finishing a job that led to a penalty for IAG from the industry regulator.
After a month, Cheikho told the FWC that her employer had a deliberate strategy to get rid of her from the company. She said they singled her out because of her mental health problems.
According to the findings available online, in November 2022, Cheikho was formally warned about her work performance and was subsequently placed on a plan to enhance her performance.
A comprehensive examination of her online actions scrutinized the actual number of times she physically pressed her keyboard during 49 workdays spanning from October to December.
The analysis discovered that she didn't meet her scheduled work hours on 44 days, started her work late on 47 days, finished early on 29 days, and didn't engage in any work for 4 days.
On the days she did log in, her keyboard usage was extremely limited. She didn't press any keys at all for a total of 117 hours in October, 143 hours in November, and 60 hours in December.
On average, she pressed the keyboard 54 times per hour throughout the period of observation, indicating that she wasn't fulfilling her work obligations as required.
During an official meeting regarding the assessment, Cheikho expressed strong skepticism about the accuracy of the data but failed to provide any proof to support her claim that she had been online and working during the times when the report indicated otherwise.
“Sometimes the workload is a bit slow, but I have never not worked,” she told her managers, according to the FWC findings.
“I mean, I may go to the shops from time to time, but that is not for the entire day. I need to take some time to consider this and I will put forward a response.”
In a written reply, Cheikho mentioned that she had examined the data in an attempt to understand the reasons behind the hours that were unaccounted for. However, she admitted she couldn't remember the specific reasons for the significantly low figures.
“I have tried to go through emails and messages to see if I can explain it,” she wrote.
“I have been going through a lot of personal issues which has caused a decline to my mental health and unfortunately I believe it has affected my performance and my work.”
Cheikho affirmed that she regularly initiated work on schedule, but she acknowledged having "some personal matters" to manage due to an injury.
She claimed that she adopted the practice of notifying her managers about medical appointments through Teams messages and assured them that she would make up for the lost time by working extra hours later.
She mentioned being "confused and shocked" by the data, and expressed skepticism about its accuracy. She clarified that she utilized other devices, besides her laptop, to log in during times of "system issues."
As per the decision made by the FWC, Cheikho participated in a Microsoft Teams meeting with her manager regarding her performance, during which she had the word "F—k" written on her hand.
FWC Deputy President Thomas Roberts concluded from the evidence that Cheikho was not fulfilling her required work obligations during her designated working hours while under observation.
Roberts noted that Cheikho was unable to offer a believable explanation for the data to her employers or throughout the FWC proceedings.
Roberts stated that, despite Cheikho's claim of using her phone for specific tasks, her employer had demonstrated the necessity for her to utilize her laptop to carry out her responsibilities
“The applicant was dismissed for a valid reason of misconduct,” Roberts wrote.
“I have little doubt that the factors underlying the applicant’s disconnection from work were serious and real.”
The situation was “regrettable” given Cheikho’s “long period of satisfactory service,” Roberts wrote.
“Nonetheless … I am satisfied that the dismissal of the applicant was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable.”
“The applicant’s application is therefore dismissed.”