Australian work-from-home employee sacked for ‘not typing enough’

Australian work-from-home employee sacked for ‘not typing enough’

An insurance employee in Australia who worked from home was sacked after her boss tracked her keystrokes and realised she was hardly doing any work.

Suzie Cheikho was fired from her role as communications disclosure consultant at Insurance Australia Group (IAG), where she had worked for 18 years.

Her duties included creating insurance documents, ensuring documents abided by legal standards, meeting regulatory timeframes and mailbox management.

Her employment was terminated after she missed numerous deadlines and meetings, was absent and uncontactable, and had failed to lodge a product disclosure statement that resulted in the regulator fining IAG, according to findings from the Fair Work Commission.

Ms Cheikho argued she was unfairly dismissed, but her claim was dismissed last month after the Commission found she was sacked for a ‘valid reason of misconduct’.

Ms Cheikho’s boss asked IAG’s ‘cyber team’ to conduct a review of her laptop activity from October to December by checking how much she was typing on her laptop while she was working.

It was discovered through the review that Ms Cheikho did not work her rostered hours – 7:30am to 4:00pm – for 44 days in that period of time.

She started work late on seven days and left early on 29 days. She also recorded zero work hours on four days.

When Ms Cheikho did work, the findings showed she had ‘very low keystroke activity on her laptop’ averaging 54 strokes per hour throughout the three months.

She did not type a single letter for 117 hours in October, 143 hours in November and 60 hours in December.

When the cyber review was brought to her attention, Ms Cheikho vehemently rejected the accuracy of the data.

She told her managers during a formal meeting before her dismissal that she ‘doubted the data’ and did ‘not believe for a minute’ the findings were correct.

‘I cannot believe this data,’ she said.

‘Sometimes the workload is a bit slow, but I have never not worked. I mean, I may go to the shops from time to time, but that is not for the entire day.’

In a written response, Ms Cheikho explained that she had looked over the data and couldn’t ‘recall why or how’ the missing hours and times were low.

‘I have tried to go through emails and messages to see if I can explain it,’ she said.

‘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…’

She later added that she was ‘confused and shocked’ by the data, doubted its accuracy again and stated the she used other devices to log in and work when she was having ‘system issues’.

Almost a month after she was sacked, Ms Cheikho filed an unfair dismissal application to the Fair Work Commission.

She claimed in her application that there was no valid reason for her dismissal and IAG had a ‘premeditated plan to remove her from the business and that she was targeted due to her mental health issues’.

Fair Work Commission Deputy President Thomas Roberts found Ms Cheikho ‘was not working as she was required to do during her designated working hours’.

In the findings, she also couldn’t provide a credible explanation for ‘the allegation relating to the non-performance of her duties’ and put little evidence forward to assist her argument that the data from the cyber review was inaccurate.

Mr Roberts said that there was a ‘valid reason for dismissal’ as Ms Cheikho ‘was not working as she was required to do in the October to December 2022 period’.

He didn’t doubt there were ‘serious and real’ factors that were behind Ms Cheikho’s ‘disconnection’ from her work and that it was ‘regrettable’ her employment had come to an end after a ‘long period of satisfactory service’.

‘Nonetheless…I am satisfied that the dismissal of the applicant was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable,’ Mr Roberts concluded the report.  (Daily Mail)

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