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.”
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.