COVID-19 temperature checking system upheld
The Fair Work Commission has found an employer had a valid reason to terminate the employment of an employee who failed to report recording a temperature of 38.5 degrees on their arrival at work, contrary to a temperature check procedure (Yordanos Fesshatsyen v Mambourin Enterprises Ltd  FWC 1244).
Miss Fesshatsyen was employed as a casual disability support worker.
On 10 June 2020, she arrived at work and undertook a temperature check. The temperature check procedure was introduced by the employer to guide temperature monitoring at its sites in the wake of COVID-19, so as to prevent its spread. It relevantly included an instruction to employees to self-report any temperate reading in excess of 38 degrees (self-report requirement).
The first reading was recorded at 33 degrees. Because of this, a second check was conducted and her temperature was recorded at 38.5 degrees. Both Miss Fesshatsyen and the person who conducted the test considered the device to be unreliable because of the inconsistent readings. However, neither person reported the temperature readings to management.
Later in the day, Miss Fesshatsyen mentioned to another employee that her son had a temperature of 38 degrees when she had dropped him at school that morning, and he reported feeling unwell. The employee asked Miss Fesshatsyen if she had recorded and checked her temperature in the register. She responded that she had, but made no mention of the readings.
However, the next day, Miss Fesshatsyen sent her employer a medical certificate recording her temperature on that day of 36 degrees.
Her employment was terminated on 17 July 2020 on the basis that she breached the temperature check procedure when she recorded a high temperature, but did not report this to management and instead commenced work.
The Fair Work Commission found:
- The self-report requirement was a reasonable and lawful direction;
- Miss Fesshatseyen was aware of the temperature check procedure, because she received it by email and she attended a staff meeting in which it was handed out and discussed; and
- her conduct in failing to report her temperature reading of 38.5 degrees and instead go about performing her duties was a valid reason for dismissal.
Miss Fesshatsyen contended that temperature checking device was inaccurate, but this was not made out on the evidence.
The Commission observed:
“Perhaps more concerning, she did not, at any time, convey any insight into the seriousness of her behavior, preferring to justify it by her own perceived state of wellness, her actual state of wellness (as established one day later) and claimed lack of knowledge of the procedure. “
The decision illustrates how seriously the Commission generally views departures from safety standards, especially during a pandemic.