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No. 142 – The new hires are clocking off early, while the rest of us are stuck at our desks

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14 February 2024

Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a Minute?” This week: unfair working hours, a resignation following allegations of harassment and unpaid superannuation from a celebrity employer.

My boss recently hired some new full-time staff. These staff members have been offered shorter working hours than the rest of us, and have the option of a shorter lunch break, so they can finish even earlier. Existing staff, like me, are still on our original contracted hours. I raised this with my boss, and he changed my hours, but didn’t extend the change to other existing employees, which I now feel uncomfortable about. Help?

In my most generous take, I think your boss seems fairly naive to think hiring new people on better conditions wouldn’t create a highly divisive culture with those who have been working, loyally, for your employer for a longer period of time.

I think you can thank your boss for making the change for you individually, but explain this is really a change in condition he needs to be prepared to make for your colleagues too. You may need to explain there is growing discontent among the rest of the workforce about what has become a case of “haves” and “have-nots”. I suspect he will need to either provide some internal communication seeking to justify how this can continue, or else find a solution so that everyone is treated equally. If you are represented by a union, you might also want to raise this with them to see what they recommend.

I was investigated for sexual harassment. The allegations were substantiated, but the investigation found that my behaviour did not amount to sexual harassment. Despite this, I was told my conduct still required improvement. I was required to complete training and was effectively banished from my team. In the end, I resigned. I wrote to my former employer and complained I wasn’t provided with the principles of natural justice or procedural fairness. They also didn’t provide me with “Miranda rights” during my interview, and I wasn’t informed about an appeal process. The response from the organisation was that there were no grounds to my grievances. What more can I do?

The key question for you to consider is: what do you want to achieve? It doesn’t sound like it would be possible to be reinstated to your old job (and you don’t seem to want that either) so what are you seeking? If your goal is to receive some kind of apology or acknowledgement about flaws in the investigation process, that seems unlikely. If you want to sue your former employer for forced resignation, sometimes referred to as constructive dismissal, the onus will be on you to show you did not resign voluntarily, which can be challenging.

It is probably worth mentioning that “Miranda rights” (the right to remain silent) is a specific term only applicable in the US. We do, of course, have a fundamental legal right to remain silent and, if you’re arrested by the police, they will give you a “caution” about not having to respond to questions. However, this is relevant to a criminal prosecution, and whether it would have applied in your case is far from clear.

As painful as this period sounds like it has been for you, I suspect the best action you can now take is to try and move on to your next career challenge. It sounds like you and your former employer were not a good fit but hopefully, you can find a new role where things go more smoothly.

I worked for a well-known hospitality celebrity; however, I left after not being paid superannuation for a year and consistently late wages. Reports to the ATO and the Fair Work Ombudsman have yielded no results. The employer keeps getting away with it and this is not his first time. Why does the industry support people like this?

I suspect the industry supports your employer because they don’t know what is going on. And if they do know and support him anyway, they clearly don’t appreciate the serious impact wage theft has on employees. Wage theft is, sadly, all too common irrespective of how high profile the business owner might be. You can send a tip-off to the Fair Work Ombudsman if you think your former employer is continuing to steal from employees, you can ask the ATO for an update on your specific claim, or seek legal advice if you are still unsatisfied with the results.

To submit a question about work, careers or leadership, visit (you will not be asked to provide your name or any identifying information. Letters may be edited).

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