Linfox to truck driver: No licence, no job

By: Brad Gardner


Truck driver sacked for losing his licence launches unfair dismissal claim against Linfox.

 

A lengthy and proud employment history with Linfox was no saving grace for a truck driver once he lost his licence for a drink-driving offence.

Christopher Kohen’s 16-year stint with Linfox — 11 as a full-time driver — came to an abrupt end earlier this year when he was caught over the blood alcohol limit while driving his private vehicle outside of work hours on January 15.

Kohen’s licence was suspended for eight months, preventing him from carrying out his duties as a Linfox driver.

Linfox management held a meeting with Kohen on February 20 and then shortly after terminated his employment.

This was despite Kohen asking Linfox to take into consideration instances where other drivers who lost their licence were able to take leave during the period of their suspension.

"As a driver for Linfox, maintaining a valid driver’s licence is an inherent requirement for your position," Linfox operations manager Russell Grant wrote to Kohen upon his termination.

"With your licence suspended you are unable to perform the inherent requirements of your position, and therefore Linfox has taken the decision to terminate your employment, effective immediately."

Kohen launched an unfair dismissal claim and sought reinstatement on the basis his suspension could be served by a combination of paid and unpaid leave or by redeployment to a non-driving position.

Kohen told the Fair Work Commission (FWC) he would even ride a bicycle from his home to work to keep his job — an 18km journey.

However, the FWC was told Linfox had no non-driving positions available at the worksite Kohen was based.

Furthermore, Linfox told the FWC it could not grant Kohen paid and unpaid leave for the duration of his licence suspension because his position needed to be filled.

Commissioner Geoff Bull ruled there were no suitable alternative roles for Kohen to do for eight months and that Linfox had a valid reason to sack him. 

"In this case, the incapacity to fulfil the inherent requirement of the position of a truck driver arises from incapacity to operate a motor vehicle due to the loss of the applicant's driver's licence," Bull says.

"Based on the evidence which is before the Commission, I conclude that a valid reason did exist for the termination."

Bull says Linfox did follow the correct procedure for dismissing an employee, namely giving Kohen the opportunity to respond to being terminated and providing him with a support person during meetings regarding his position.

Bull also ruled on the issue of whether Kohen received different treatment to those who had lost their licence in other circumstances but still retained their job with Linfox.

The commissioner says the examples Kohen provided did not demonstrate unequal treatment to the point where his dismissal was harsh, unjust or unreasonable.

"This is not a case of two or more employees at the same in the same circumstances being treated differently," Bull says.

"The examples provided were not like with like and had occurred five or more years ago."

But there is some good news for Kohen, who Bull says "had an exemplary work record and was a trusted employee" at Linfox.

"Fortunately, it would appear that Linfox has not ruled out the applicant’s possible return to truck driving upon application when he re-acquires his driver’s licence," Bull says.

 

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