BOQ manager ‘unfairly’ sacked for $37k transfer to fraudster
A Bank of Queensland branch manager who was sacked for mistakenly transferring $37,500 to a fraudster when inundated by "panicking" senior citizens during the pandemic, has won her case for unfair dismissal.
Kylie Smith, the Nambour branch manager, was sacked on May 8 last year for transferring the money to the scammer's Commonwealth Bank account a month earlier, on April Fools day.
Only $7500 was recovered by the Bank of Queensland.
She said at the time she made the mistake the Nambour branch was experiencing the peak impact of Covid-19, with their "older customer base which does not like to do online banking" coming to "withdraw large amounts of cash ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 because they were panicking".
On Monday Fair Work Commission Deputy President Ingrid Asbury ruled Ms Smith's sacking was unfair because she had no basis to suspect fraud and no experience with it.
Ms Asbury said Ms Smith's actions were careless but not negligent, and she had failed to take proper care and give sufficient attention to her work by seeing three red flags and stopping to check.
Ms Asbury said Ms Smith deserved to be "strongly censured" but not sacked.
Ms Asbury said Ms Smith had given uncontested evidence that she was not trained in how to detect and avoid the kind of fraud she encountered on April Fool's day last year.
She also said she had not encountered fraud in her eight years of unblemished continuous service at the bank, and 15 years in total.
"To this day I am stunned that I have been tangled up in a scam and I would like to profusely apologise for my mistake," Ms Smith said in a statement to her employer.
"During this time at Nambour branch our customers/transactions spiked to an average of 157 per day with the phones ringing off the hook on top. We were also lacking in staff with two team members not present in branch," she told her employer.
Brett Holland, a BOQ area manager, testified at a hearing in September that Ms Smith was sacked for a pattern of behaviour that did not align to the inherent requirement of her role and her failings were so significant that he lost trust and confidence in her ability.
Mr Holland told the hearing that the fraudster's email was suspicious in many ways including because it was "written in an odd challenged language".
Mr Holland said that Ms Smith should have asked the customer, a builder, to come into the branch and prove their identity when the scammer asked via email to change their bank account details to the Commonwealth Bank.
But Ms Asbury ruled that Mr Holland's conclusion that Ms Smith could not be trusted to do her job in the future "was not soundly based".
She ruled that the fraudster's emails were not so obvious that Ms Smith should have noted them, and that the fraudulent emails were inserted into a chain which included a genuine email from the actual customer.
Ms Smith was remorseful and said she regretted not having phoned the customer. She accepted she had not complied with BOQ policies.
She was earning $84,246.58 a year before superannuation and performance bonuses when she was sacked.
The case is due to return to the commission to determine how Ms Smith should be compensated for her unfair dismissal.
Originally published as Bank manager 'unfairly' sacked for transferring $37k to fraudster