Aussie woman sacked for not typing enough while working from home
An Australian woman was fired from a major insurance company after it used keystroke technology to assess whether she had been working her designated hours satisfactorily from home.
Ms Suzie Cheikho, 38, had worked for Insurance Australia Group (IAG) for 18 years before she was let go in February for various issues while working from home, which included “very low keystroke activity”, reported Australian media outlet Seven News.
Details of Ms Cheikho’s case came to light after the Fair Work Commission (FWC) rejected an unfair dismissal application the former IAG consultant had brought, and found that she had been fired for a “valid reason of misconduct”.
According to the commission’s published finding, Ms Cheikho was responsible for creating insurance documents, meeting regulatory timelines, and monitoring “work from home compliance,” among other significant roles.
Ironically, her own work-from-home performance proved problematic.
According to the FWC findings, Ms Cheikho was fired on Feb 20 for missing deadlines and meetings, being absent and uncontactable, and failing to complete a task which caused the industry regulator to fine IAG.
A month later, she filed a complaint to the FWC alleging that her employer had a “premeditated plan to remove her from the business and that she was targeted due to her mental health issues.”
The FWC had found that Ms Cheikho had received a formal warning in November 2022 about her output and was put on a performance improvement plan.
She was also subjected to a detailed review of cyber activity, which analysed the number of times she physically pressed her keyboard on 49 working days from October to December last year.
The review found she did not work her rostered hours for 44 days, started late on 47 days, finished early on 29 days, and performed zero hours of work on four days.
On the days she did log on, she had “very low keystroke activity” and recorded zero strokes over 117 hours in October, 143 hours in November, and 60 hours in December.
She averaged 54 strokes per hour over the duration of her surveillance, which the review said showed “she was not presenting for work and performing work as required.”
In a formal meeting about the review, Ms Cheikho said she did “not believe for a minute” the data was true but showed no evidence that she had been online and working when the report showed that she had not.
“Sometimes the workload is a bit slow, but I have never not worked,” she told her managers in a written response, according to the FWC findings.
Ms Cheikho also told them she had been going through “personal issues which have caused a decline to my mental health”, which she believes affected her performance and work.
She also insisted she always started work on time and doubted the accuracy of the data presented, adding that she used other devices than her laptop to log in when she had “system issues.”
FWC deputy president Thomas Roberts ruled the evidence showed that Ms Cheikho “was not working as she was required to do during her designated working hours” while monitored, and noted that she could not provide a credible explanation for the data to her employers or throughout the proceedings.
In his explanation dismissing her application, Mr Roberts wrote that while Ms Cheikho said she used her phone for certain tasks, her employer had shown the need for her to use her laptop to complete her duties.
“The applicant was dismissed for a valid reason of misconduct,” Mr Roberts wrote. “I have little doubt that the factors underlying the applicant’s disconnection from work were serious and real.”