Harry's haemorrhoids no excuse for defrauding TNT

TNT Express driver deliberately defrauded the company by using GPS blocker to disguise whereabouts and claim overtime payments

Harry's haemorrhoids no excuse for defrauding TNT
Harry's haemorrhoids no excuse for defrauding TNT
By Brad Gardner | June 3, 2011

A TNT Express driver deliberately used a GPS blocking device to disguise his whereabouts and claim fraudulent overtime payments.

A company investigation revealed Harry Zoumas fiddled with the in-cab tracking device to spend work time at home between August 23 and September 7, 2010.

Zoumas drove home after his final job for the day and then claimed overtime payments when he arrived at TNT’s Enfield depot in Sydney in the evening. TNT fired the driver and also alleged he siphoned fuel from a company vehicle into a jerry can and lied during the investigation.

The details emerged during Zoumas’s unfair dismissal hearing before Fair Work Australia, where he claimed he should not have been sacked because he had to return home to treat his haemorrhoids and that the GPS blocker was designed to boost his mobile phone reception.

"I did a responsible day’s work and basically the only reason I was going home on a daily basis was basically to empty my bowels," Zoumas says.

"Basically I kept myself from an empty stomach at times for, you know, longer than 12 hours so naturally when you have a meal my digestive system works like, ‘Pretty soon I’ll be going to the toilet’."

Commissioner Greg Harrison dismissed the unfair dismissal claim and ruled that Zoumas wilfully blocked the GPS signal to receive overtime payments for time not worked.

"In my opinion, the Applicant’s medical condition of haemorrhoids was used by him as an excuse to cover and excuse his dishonesty," Harrison says in his written judgement.

"His use of a GPS blocking device and the claiming of overtime payments for which he was not entitled were premeditated and calculated. His dishonesty was flagrant and untenable."

Despite Zoumas’s claims, Harrison found there was no evidence the company was aware of the driver’s haemorrhoids and that he only obtained a medical certificate after he lost his job.

Fair Work Australia heard that a TNT depot manager raised concerns after noticing anomalies in the GPS data. TNT attached a portable device to the vehicle to compare the results with the fixed unit.

It found that both units recorded the same data until about 5pm, when the fixed GPS device did not track the vehicle between the last delivery location and the Enfield depot for periods of up to three and a half hours.

"The second GPS device attached to the Applicant’s vehicle confirmed the location, date and times of his route deviations," Harrison says.

TNT searched Zoumas’s vehicle and found the blocking device, but the driver told them: "It’s a booster for my mobile phone."

The transport operator sent the device to be tested by Pinpoint Communications. Its director, Peter McAlpine, told TNT it was designed to jam GPS and GSM frequencies.

Zoumas claimed he bought the device in 2006, two years before TNT installed GPS devices in vehicles, to improve his mobile phone reception.

He then contradicted himself during a meeting with company representatives by saying a former TNT employee had given it to him a year earlier.

"Under cross examination the Applicant agreed he lied during the interview," Harrison says.

Zoumas claimed his supervisor, Pietro Villa, knew of his haemorrhoids and allowed him to go home en route to Enfield at the end of his shift.

Villa told Fair Work Australia he was unaware of Zoumas’s medical condition and did not know that he failed to return immediately to the depot after completing his final job for the day.

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