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.
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”.