‘Lollygate’ scientist in court case over unauthorised burger run

by Chloe Taylor17 Feb 2015
A former Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) technician has lost his bid for compensation after claiming his treatment over a McDonald’s Big Mac meal led to serious distress.

Jack Hoffman claimed he was mentally damaged following the loss of his job at Canberra’s deep space research station. He resigned after he was caught using work cars to grab food from a McDonald’s drive-through and reprimanded.

Hoffman – who was also involved in the 'lollygate' controversy – maintains that he is being victimised by the abuse of power within the public service.

He was on his final warning from his employer at the research station in May 2012 when his colleagues noticed him enter a McDonald’s drive-through in a car supplied by the organisation.

Hoffman’s co-workers informed their bosses of this, and Hoffman – who had been specifically warned not to use work cars to pick up fast food – was told he was facing the sack. This led to Hoffman offering the CSIRO his resignation.

The former NASA technician subsequently pursued unfair dismissal proceedings at Fair Work Australia, but was unsuccessful. He also lodged a new claim for workers’ compensation for “adjustment disorder with mixed emotional features” caused by the termination of his employment.

Hoffman’s case was backed by medical evidence, and was not disputed by federal workplace insurer Comcare – but the insurer did argue that the CSIRO’s decision to dismiss Hoffman had been made in a “reasonable manner”.

Comcare refused to pay Hoffman, and the matter was taken to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) in October.

At the tribunal hearing, Hoffman’s lawyer argued that his client’s bosses should have taken his food addiction into account when deciding on disciplinary action over the incident.

Hoffman’s lawyer added that Hoffman had become a “problem” worker, and that his managers were looking for an opportunity to get rid of him.

AAT deputy president Katherine Bean, who was presiding over the tribunal, backed the CSIRO’s actions. She noted that Hoffman knew he should not have used the work car for McDonald’s runs and that it was not an isolated incident of misconduct.

“He clearly knew that stopping at the McDonald's drive-through on his way home was a breach of the policy, and decided to do this anyway, presumably in the hope that he would not be ‘caught’,” Bean wrote. “It was part of a pattern of conduct by Mr Hoffman, involving problematic behaviour in the workplace and refusal to follow directions from his superiors.”

Hoffman told The Canberra Times he was the victim of a vendetta and a widespread injustice towards workers in the Australian Public Service and the broader public sector.

“The “McDonald’s incident” was simply the only opportunity that came close to becoming anything close to a misconduct event that would give the CSIRO any authority to behave in the manner that they did,” he said. “There is a bigger issue at play and that is the systemic abuse of government authority.”


  • by Paul 18/02/2015 12:38:52 PM

    Really - he was driving the Company car home ...

    “He clearly knew that stopping at the McDonald's drive-through on his way home was a breach of the policy.

    and he just stopped at McDonalds on the way past and was terminated. Is that it!

    Hes better off out of there.

  • by Amanda Rochford 18/02/2015 1:16:52 PM

    Yes Paul, welcome to the Public Service !!

  • by Jack Hoffman 18/02/2015 1:54:56 PM

    HC, you might have lost the plot!

    Firstly an injury occurred in the workplace without a doubt. Two psychiatrists, one psychologist and Comcare (the insurer) have all agreed that an injury happened as a result of my employment. Finally the AAT conceded that I suffered an injury in the workplace.

    Given that an injury happened as a direct result of my employment it is not unreasonable that I should seek compensation.

    I don't have to justify my injury to you the uninformed audience. As it's none of your business and I don't care what you think

    Insurance was denied by the AAT on the grounds that my employer the CSIRO was "reasonable", in other words; "reasonable administrative action applied in a reasonable manner".

    Now my crime (reason to sack me) precisely is that on an authorized business trip (work to home) that I had breached the CSIRO's Transport Policies (there are two) by stopping at a McDonald's Drive-Thru on my direct route home. I drove past McDonald's every day so there was no detour as McDonald's was on the way of my authorized business trip.

    My employer (a HR manager with a personal vendetta) had contended that I had breached a CSIRO Transport Policy which is a load of crap. The transport policy comes nowhere close to address a circumstance where an employee might stop a fleet vehicle on their direct authorized trip.


    The policy is simply silent about what occurred (stopping at Maccas). So how can an employer take sanctions by claiming an employee had breached the policy when the policy does not address the incident.

    So here lies the shortcomings of our legal system in in particular the AAT (Australian Arbitration Tribunal).

    The AAT (Deputy President Katherine Bean) had ruled against me emphasizing that I had breached my employers transport policy which is a load of lies to say the least.

    I have made available significant internal CSIRO documents on my website to expose the toxic culture inside the CSIRO which expose what was really going on with my employer the CSIRO.

    Sacked over a Big Mac

    Victims of Bullying, Harassment, and Victimisation in the CSIRO
    This site will describe the toxic workplace culture in the CSIRO.

    Will illustrate the extent of abuse in the Australian public sector.

    Hoffman Vs Comcare - AAT decision

    Most people unfamiliar with abusive and toxic workplace cultures that are pervasive in the CSIRO, the ATO or other parts of the APS have no concept of what is really going on and will look at my case at face value, but I can assure you that the issues are more complex and insidious than you might believe.

    My employer (the vindictive HR manager) could not care the least about a work car stopping at McDonalds Drive-Thru for two minutes. What was really at issue was that my HR manager was looking for any reason to terminate my employment. Since nothing normal (theft, harassment, non performance, fraud and so on) presented itself my employer tried to take full advantage of the McDonald's incident.

    Also be aware that the news media tries to distort and sensationalize the facts to create an interesting story.

    Can't you see NASA, CSIRO and having a "loopy" technician sacked over a Big Mac having the makings of an interesting story?

    The news media played it up because it sells newspapers.

    This has nothing to do with Big Macs or the consumption of confectionery in the workplace. Instead it is all about a unfortunate employee who was a concerted target of mobbing and bullying in the workplace where the employer was so desperate to inflict their harm that they were so stupid to make a mountain out of a molehill to justify their behavior.

    If anyone (HR professionals, academics, psychologists, etc) are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of my case then you can direct message me via twitter to @mrjhoffman and we can exchange phone numbers, etc.

    I simply ask that you have an open mind. I'm quite happy to disclose all internal CSIRO documents as I believe this is in the public interest.

    Then also apply common sense.

    Is it a sackable offense for an employee that hadn't eaten all day who latter stops at McDonald's on his way home?

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