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Shop's 'Extraordinarily Heartless' Decision To Sack Chef With Cancer

The Fair Work Commission has slammed a Sydney wholefoods store for its “extraordinarily heartless” dismissal of a chef who took sick leave for cancer treatment.

Chanintorn Siri was dismissed by a telephone call from the Urban Orchard Wholefoods store on November 18 last year.

He had been granted three days of paid sick leave several days earlier, after he was admitted to Concord Hospital with severe stomach pain, according to a commission judgement released on Tuesday.

The chef was dismissed over the phone. Image: Getty

After being discharged, Siri said he phoned the store owner, Gabrielle Levette, and told her he would return to work the next week.

But Levette argued she was unable to reach him via text message.

According to the judgement, Levette later dismissed Siri over the phone on the grounds he was an unreliable employee who had “abandoned his position”. She told Siri she had offered his job to another cook.

Siri was dismissed immediately, and was not paid any amount in lieu of notice.

Levette argued the dismissal was made on “reasonable grounds” of misconduct -- including claims he had acted fraudulently in completing time sheets, took regular sick leave for no reason and one occasion, closed the store too early.

READ MORE: While Workplaces Test Dismissal Laws, It's Women Who Will Suffer

The man worked as a chef at a wholefoods store in Sydney's CBD. Image: Getty

But Commissioner Cambridge said Siri’s performance did not constitute "matters that jeopardised the ongoing employment", finding his immediate dismissal to be inconsistent with provisions of the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code. 

“There was no factual basis to establish reasonable grounds upon which the employer could hold any belief that the applicant had committed conduct that was sufficiently serious to justify his immediate dismissal,” Cambridge said.

Cambridge found the dismissal -- by way of a phone call -- to be “unnecessarily harsh” and was “compounded by the extraordinarily heartless disregard for the personal circumstances of another human being who was suffering from pancreatic cancer”.

READ MORE: 40 Percent Of Aussie Workers In Insecure Work, ACTU Says

Levette told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age she was unaware Siri had cancer.

The commission ordered Urban Orchard pay Siri $18,000 in compensation -- down 20 percent from $26,000 to factor in his time employed and the “impact on the viability” of the business based on his absence on unpaid personal leave after his dismissal.

Urban Orchard will reportedly appeal the finding.

Featured image: Getty