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Man Fired for Using Bag of Chips to Hide from Employer's GPS Tracking

The electrician was equal parts lazy and crafty.

Nick Rose

Nick Rose

Photo via Pixabay.

Have you ever looked at a bag of chips and thought, “That’s the perfect way to stop someone from geo-tracking me!”? Unless you’re MacGyver or an electrician with a serious penchant for golf, probably not. This is the story of the latter case.

According to a recent decision by Australia’s Fair Work Commission (FWC), electrician Tom Colella used an empty, foil-lined bag of Twisties to block out signals that would have allowed his employer to track him using GPS. Eventually, thanks to an anonymous letter, the company that Colella worked for caught wind of his “workplace attendance irregularities” and he was promptly fired.

Colella also happened to be Captain of the Lakelands Golf Club outside of Perth, and, the Telegraph reports, he had “left work to play golf at least 140 times over the last two years.”
That in itself is pretty damn ballsy, but Colella, who was making a salary of AUD $111,000 (USD $84,000), even had the gall to claim that he was unfairly dismissed by the company, which is how this case ended up before the FWC and where the bag of Twisties emerged as a crucial piece of evidence.

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“I have taken into account that Mr. Colella openly stored his PDA device in an empty foil ‘Twisties’ bag,” FWC commissioner Bernie Riordan wrote in his decision, referring to the “Personal Digital Assistant” used to keep track of the electrician's whereabouts during the workday. But by using a combination of 19th-century ingenuity and 21st-century food packaging, Colella was apparently able to block out signals that could help locate him.

“As an experienced electrician, Mr. Colella knew that this bag would work as a [Faraday] cage, thereby preventing the PDA from working properly—especially the provision of regular GPS coordinate updates,” Riordan determined, adding, “I can find no plausible explanation why Mr. Colella would create a Faraday cage around his PDA, except to obstruct the GPS collecting capacity of the device. Mr. Colella appears to have been deliberately mischievous in acting in this manner.”

Mischievous, for sure, but also crafty as hell. The FWC ultimately sided with his employer, ruling that they indeed had “a valid reason to terminate Mr Colella” and that “Mr Colella’s termination was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable.” Colella, who is now “working as an Uber driver earning a few hundred dollars per week,” may have been able to evade his employer and electromagnetism thanks to a bag of chips, but there was no escaping the long arm of Australian labor law.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Tom Colella's family name as "Collela." We apologize for the error.