Theft and dishonest behaviour by staff are both considered reasonable grounds for dismissal, regardless of the value of the item stolen.

A recent example of this occurred in Tony Petrosillo v Coles Group Supply Chain Pty Ltd [2009] AIRC 3. In this case, Tony Petrosillo, who worked in a Coles distribution centre, was dismissed after consuming a chocolate bar given to him by another employee.

Under cross-examination, Mr Petrosillo confirmed that he was aware of the relevant policies in question and that Coles regularly enforced them. Robert Cartwright, the Senior Deputy President (SDP) of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, held that these factors along with Mr Petrosillo’s evasive answers during questioning, lead him to conclude that the chocolate bar he consumed had been stolen.

Therefore, SDP Cartwright found that Mr Petrosillo’s dismissal was fair and reasonable, despite his previous good record of service.


What did Coles do correctly?

After experiencing over $110,000 in losses from their distribution centre, Coles introduced two new company policies – these being the Check Seal Policy and the Food and Drink Policy.

Under these policies, all food and grocery items belonging to staff members need to have check seals attached to distinguish them from stock items. In addition to this, staff members are also required to read and sign a Code of Conduct which requires them to behave in an “open, honest and trustworthy” manner at all times.

Mr Petrosillo was interviewed in relation to the breaches of policy and the need to be open and honest was reinforced to him. After this questioning, he was suspended on full pay. A week later, he was interviewed again in relation to the incident and after his responses were considered, he was dismissed.

Kelly Godfrey, a senior associate in business and employment law, says “This case demonstrates the importance of having appropriate workplace policies, which are made known to all employees and are properly enforced.”

Ms Godfrey adds that employees should be warned about the consequences of dishonest behaviour and that businesses should have strong evidence of misconduct before dismissing staff.


What can your organisation do?

Effective workplace policies have many roles. Firstly, they act as a guide for employees on expected behaviours and standards. Secondly, they allow organisations to develop an official dialogue with staff on these issues. Workplaces policies, when properly implemented and consistently applied, also provide organisations with legal protection in serious cases such as above.


iHR Australia can assist your organisation in what can be a confusing and time-consuming process. Our HR professionals are experts in all aspects of policies and procedures development and can provide your organisation with an effective solution to achieve your goals.


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