Hain v Ace Recycling Pty Ltd [2016] FWC 1690 (16 May 2016)

The Fair Work Commission has found that despite having a valid reason for sacking an employee who called the chief executive an “old c—t,” a company’s conduct and procedures meant the dismissal was unfair.

The labourer made the comment during a telephone call with Ace Recycling Pty Ltd’s chief executive, who “became aggressive and started swearing” when asked about unpaid overtime.

The labourer claims the chief executive said something like “I am a f—king wealthy man, you shouldn’t worry about f—king money” but that he couldn’t “afford to put food on the f—king table for my family.”

The labourer responded: “That’s not my f—king problem, you owe me money.”

The chief executive dismissed him later that day via text message.

Deputy President Ingrid Asbury said that the “old c—t” comment indicated a breakdown in the employment relationship, and said that, notwithstanding other factors, “an employer will generally have a valid reason to dismiss an employee who directs such a comment to the CEO or a manager or to another employee.”

However, the Deputy President also found that the chief executive’s language and behaviour was “neither reasonable nor appropriate for the CEO of a firm with 43-48 employees.”

She stated that she did “not accept that a text message is an appropriate mechanism to advise employee of dismissal and the reasons for it,” also commenting on other issues of procedural fairness, including an opportunity to respond.

JFM Law is a boutique firm of employment law specialists, and we have dealt with a number of matters regarding difficult situations where a potentially unfair dismissal has occurred.

We have noticed that the above matter has not yet received mainstream media attention, and we would be more than happy to discuss the story with you and be contacted for a quote.

Contact: John Morrissey at front.desk@jfmlaw.com.au, Chris Lowe at chris.lowe@jfmlaw.com.au or (02) 9331 0266.