Fair Work Australia commissioner Ian Cambridge has said the workplace of a Queensland crane operator was toxic and posed an unacceptable risk of injury to employees.
Following an investigation which heard reports of alleged drug use, urination in other workers' boots, slashed car tyres and physical assault and racial vilification of colleagues, Commissioner Cambridge said the worksite resembled a “school playground where the teachers were wilfully blind to all manner of misbehaviour ranging from horseplay to wanton gangster thuggery”.
The revelations came to light following a case put before Fair Work Australia (FWA).
What’s extraordinary is that when crane operator Zeb Dewson launched an unfair dismissal claim against industrial services group Boom Logistics over his sacking in May, FWA found in the employee’s favour – the employer had a flawed investigation process.
The employee was dismissed after the company upheld a complaint that he had thrown another worker into the water-filled tray of a dump truck, telling him: “You're going for a swim.” The company also took into account Dewson's alleged headbutting of a colleague at a drunken Christmas party 17 months earlier.
In his decision last week, Cambridge found Dewson's sacking was unfair principally because the company relied solely upon “unreliable” information. It accepted that the workplace was a toxic environment and that had led to a “zero tolerance” approach by management.
Dewson failed to win reinstatement but can seek compensation.