School alleges serious misconduct on basis of CCTV recordings
A large Brisbane school’s ‘first and final’ warning to a member for serious misconduct was rescinded after the employer could not substantiate the claim, which relied on CCTV recordings.
An incident involving an injury to a student had allegedly occurred in the class of our member. After an investigation by the school, the school alleged that our member was not adequately supervising or engaging at a level that the school deemed appropriate.
The employer argued the misconduct came as a result of the member putting equipment away and turning their back to students at various points throughout the lesson.
The school relied solely on CCTV recordings to make this determination.
Our union disagreed with the school’s findings and made representations directly to the school – firstly that the CCTV recordings were unreliable as there were a number of areas where the recordings froze and our member could not be seen in the video.
Secondly, our union advocated that whilst our member may have been putting items away, this was to remove hazards that could not be moved at any other time, and at no point was our member not adequately supervising or engaging with their class.
The employer responded to our union and reaffirmed its position; our union then lodged an application with the Fair Work Commission (FWC).
Following the FWC conference, it appears that serious misconduct should be treated as a high bar and that ambiguous CCTV recordings cannot be relied upon.
It must also be acknowledged that teachers face competing demands and are frequently required to make professional judgements in the course of their work.
Following the conference, the employer rescinded its ‘first and final warning’ for serious misconduct.
Our member stated: ‘I felt the school offered little assistance and guidance throughout this difficult time. On the other hand, I felt that our union provided not only industrial and professional support, but emotional support which gave me the strength needed to get through a very difficult time.’
Our union believes that CCTV recordings should only be used for security purposes and not for performance management of staff.
IEU Chapters are encouraged to check if their school has a CCTV policy in place and to contact our union for advice should the Chapter have any concerns.