Posted on 27 January 2015.
EXCLUSIVE: A pharmacist summarily dismissed from a Mandurah drug store after she took an unauthorised smoko has failed to extract damages from her employer for not paying her in lieu of notice.
A WA Industrial Relations Commission decision published online last week by Acting Senior Commissioner Pamela Scott reveals that in November 2013 Anja Rossouw, who had been pharmacist in charge at Pharmacy 777 Mandurah Carpark Chemist, was sacked after being accused of leaving her post.
Before Ms Scott, Ms Rossouw denied she left the pharmacy to have a cigarette. She said she had left to get a form she needed to read from her car, and thought that while she was out she might as well have a cigarette. She acknowledged that the previous day her boss had told her not to leave the pharmacy, but said she had to go out to get the form.
Ar the Commssion, lawyers for pharmacy owner Peta Bennett Investments Pty Ltd played a video recording from the closed circuit television camera outside the pharmacy. Ms Rossouw agreed the recording showed her leaving the pharmacy in her uniform with a cigarette in hand.
She returned to the pharmacy with no document in her hands. Asked about this, she said she went to the car to look for the form, but it was not in the car as she had thought.
Peta Bennett Investments Pty Ltd argued instead that Ms Rossouw had admitted leaving the pharmacy during her shift, which she had previously denied, but denied she’d had a cigarette while she was outside. The company said that pharmacy director Peta Bennett then told Ms Rossouw there was security camera footage showing her having a cigarette outside the shop, and Ms Rossouw then admitted she did have a cigarette.
In her published decision, Ms Scott said she preferred the evidence of witnesses other than Ms Rossouw.
“… the applicant was less than frank and was inclined to make excuses or to blame others,” Ms Scott noted.
“For example, it is clear that the applicant used, as a pretext for leaving the pharmacy, that she needed to collect the … form from her car.
“Yet she had not previously disclosed this excuse to her employer, and it was only in cross examination when it was put to her that she had returned without the form that she said that it was not in the car.
“Further, it is clear that she left the pharmacy more than once on that day and it could not have been to get the … form on each occasion.”
Ms Scott noted there were other instances of Ms Rossouw’s lack of honesty.
“For example, during the induction, when [pharmacy manager Rebecca Hicks] took the applicant through the [pharmacy’s] policies and commented that she did not seem like a smoker, so there was no need to deal with that aspect, the applicant chose not to disclose that, in fact, she is a smoker,” Ms Scott noted.
“She knew from Ms Hicks’ following comments that she was opposed to pharmacists smoking, so she remained silent and signed the bottom of the page setting out the smoking policy.”
The pharmacy’s smoking policy reads:
Our Pharmacy promotes good health to the Mandurah community, and counsels customers on the benefits of not smoking and how to get help to quit the habit. It is the management’s view that it is unprofessional and unacceptable for you to be seen smoking whilst in uniform and would prefer that you did not smoke whilst in uniform and preferably did not smoke at all. Your message of health and well being will be significantly undermined by the public seeing you smoke.
Before Ms Scott, a pharmacy assistant, Chelsea Ralph, testified that Ms Rossouw left the shop about five times for two to three minutes at a time on November 9 and 10, 2013.
Ms Ralph explained she had been told by her manager that the pharmacist in charge of the shop is not allowed to leave the pharmacy. She said there were facilities, including a toilet, within the shop so there was no need for the pharmacist to leave. She added that if there were anything the pharmacist needed from outside the shop, the pharmacy assistants were there to “do all the running around for them”.
Ms Ralph said no other pharmacist with whom she had worked had: “ever set foot outside of the shop during the shift”.
“They take their breaks when the shop is not busy, and never leave the shop,” she said.
SMOKING FROWNED UPON
Virginia Stanford, also a pharmacy assistant at the drug store, testified that on November 10 she saw Ms Rossouw once leave the pharmacy. Ms Stanford said that in the three-and-a-half years she worked as a pharmacy assistant none of her colleagues had taken smoke breaks while she had been working.
She said it was not usual for people to be given smoke breaks, and that “the pharmacist does not leave”.
Ms Scott found that Ms Rossouw knew there was a policy dealing with smoking, and that it was frowned upon by her manager.
“She knew that the policy, which she acknowledged she was bound by and which she signed, required her not to smoke while in uniform, yet she did so,” Ms Scott concluded.
“I accept the evidence of Ms Ralph that the applicant left the pharmacy when there were customers present.”
Ms Scott concluded the dismissal was properly summary for serious misconduct and that no pay in lieu of notice was due.
Photo: Rhoda Baer, Wikimedia Commons