“F***ing stupid”: “Unjust” dismissal of employee sacked for swearing

by Chloe Taylor26 Nov 2014
Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) lost an unfair dismissal case recently as the FWC found that their dismissal of an employee had been “harsh, unjust and unreasonable”.

CCA terminated Ian Holliday in March following an investigation into allegations that he had engaged in inappropriate conduct. The company also claimed that Holliday had taken leave without authority.

CCA suspended Holliday after a dispute between him and another employee. Holliday’s co-worker had walked across the path of his forklift as he was reversing it, and it was alleged that Holliday reacted by calling his colleague “f***ing stupid”.

The company also accused Holliday of taking leave without informing his supervisor.

Holliday had received a final warning letter in August 2013, stating that he had conducted himself in a way that breached the Working Together Policy and Code of Business Conduct – CCA relied on this warning as evidence of their previous issues with the employee.

Philip Brewin, director at Nevett Ford, told HC that he agreed with the FWC’s findings that CCA’s dismissal of Holliday was “harsh.”

“The punishment has to fit the crime, and to me this is where the company went wrong,” Brewin said. “Of the allegations against Holliday, none of them were extreme enough to warrant his dismissal. Holliday was a relatively long-standing employee – you have to have good reason to dismiss someone who has been with a company for a prolonged amount of time.”

The Fair Work Commission found that CCA did not have a valid reason to terminate Holliday’s employment, referring to the decision as “unreasonable.”

“The worst case scenario for Coca-Cola is that Holliday is reinstated – or the employer could be liable to pay a maximum of 6 months wages or what the employee lost between being sacked and getting a new job,” Brewin told HC.

Brewin also pointed out another of CCA’s vital mistakes.

“The abused co-worker wasn’t called upon to give evidence – when employers don’t do this, the FWC is more likely to accept the applicant’s version of events,” he said.

The FWC is yet to announce their remedy to the situation.

 

COMMENTS

  • by Catherine Cahill 26/11/2014 12:58:25 PM

    This case is interesting from the point of view of where you feel an organisation's priorities should be.

    I recently used this case as an example in a WHS/Risk Management training session. I discussed this in the context of how CCA reacted to the serious safety breach committed by the person who walked behind the forklift.

    Sacking the forklift driver for losing his temper with the person who could have actually been seriously injured or killed by walking behind the forklift, (on the face of it) seems to send a strong message about their attitude to safety.

    I do not suggest they condone abusive language, but I would suggest that they should have placed a stronger focus on the forklift driver's genuine distress at being placed in a position of potentially injuring or killing the other person.

    If I was CCA I would be making a statement about their commitment to Safety, rather than letting this case be their only message in regard to their approach to workplace breaches of policy.

  • by Trent Dunn 28/11/2014 2:38:54 PM

    Valid point indeed Catherine, concur absolutely.

  • by Paul 9/12/2014 1:59:42 PM

    Great point Catherine. Totally agree.

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