Debbie framed and unfairly sacked

Unfairly dismissed nurse reinstated after NSWNA action

An aged care facility in Kempsey has been ordered by the Full Bench of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to reinstate a nurse who had been unfairly sacked after months of victimisation and false accusations.

Debbie Rudder returned to work as an AIN at the Booroongen Djugan Aboriginal Corporation in November, after the Industrial Relations Commission ruled that ‘substantial injustice had occurred’ with her summary dismissal.

Debbie also received compensation from the corporation for all income lost due to the sacking.

Debbie was summarily dismissed by the Corporation in June 2005 after a documented series of allegations. The documentation later underpinned the NSWNA case that Debbie had been targeted and set up for dismissal by another employee of the Corporation.

The problems started for Debbie when her aunt, Kerri Donnelly, was dismissed by the same company in February 2005.

At the time of Kerri’s dismissal, another employee of Booroongen Djugan was reported as saying: ‘Now we’ve got rid of Kerri, we’ll get rid of Debbie.’ ‘

The NSWNA achieved substantial compensation for Kerrie after arguing her dismissal was unfair and put the Corporation on notice that we knew where the allegations and disciplinaries were heading for Debbie,’ said NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda.

Debbie said it was obvious what they were doing. ‘I was being set up for dismissal, so it was not a surprise when it happened.

‘It was a very stressful time and I was pregnant, which they knew when they dismissed me. It was awful. You never knew what they were going to come up with next.

‘After my Aunty was dismissed they were constantly accusing me of things. In two months I got five yellow letters [disciplinaries]. Before that I had worked there for four and half years and there was not one complaint against me.’

The complaints mounted until the most outrageous accusation led to Debbie’s summary dismissal in June 2005.

‘They accused me of threatening to poison the DoN’s dog, of planning to plant heroin on another employee and stolen computer equipment on the CEO,’ said Debbie.

‘I walked away stunned. Then it hit me: have I been sacked? I went back and asked them and they said I had to leave the facility right away.’

The NSWNA case was initially dismissed but subsequently overturned on appeal. The Commission ordered that Debbie be reinstated to her position and awarded her compensation for loss of wages. She returned to work on 16 November.

‘I didn’t expect backpay. It wasn’t about the money. I just wanted my job back because I have a mortgage to pay and children to support.

‘I also wanted my name cleared. I live in a small community where I know everyone. The whole thing was very humiliating and embarrassing for my whole family.

‘I would never have been able to get another job if they got away with this,’ she said.