Porn-sharing postal workers reinstated

by Janie Smith06 Aug 2014
Two Australia Post workers who were caught emailing pornographic material to their colleagues have won their jobs back, after the Full Federal Court upheld their reinstatement.

According to a Lexology article by Marque lawyers Amber Sharp and Wesley Rogers, the dodgy emails were discovered when Australia Post installed a new email filter in one of its letter centres.

It discovered that at least 40 employees, including managers and supervisors, were sharing the pornographic material and a number of workers were dismissed.

Three employees took the case to the Fair Work Commission, which deemed two of the dismissals fair.

One dismissal was considered harsh and the employee was awarded compensation.

The other two workers appealed to the Full Bench and the decision was overturned.

The Full Bench found that the reason for the dismissal was valid, but it was still harsh when factoring in the employees’ long periods of satisfactory service, the culture of toleration that had existed at the centre, the absence of any harm from the material since it was sent to “willing recipients” and the lack of notice of the filter being installed or a reminder of the workplace policy on such conduct.

It ordered Australia Post to reinstate the workers, but the company appealed – to no avail.

The Full Federal Court upheld the decision.

Sharp and Rogers wrote that employers “must have regard to the bigger picture” in such situations.

“For a start, make the ground rules clear, and don’t be engaging in workplace surveillance of email and internet use without complying with notice provisions.”

What action would you have taken in this situation?

 

COMMENTS

  • by SDM 6/08/2014 3:13:19 PM

    I totalle get the concept that the 'punishment must fit the crime', but it makes me chuckle that notice provisions (or a lack of them' is one of the factors which went into the employees favour. Surely a policy that says it's not ok & another that says we monitor your electronic communication is sufficient & every time it's upgraded you don't have to. Sad to say that Australia workplaces has become all about rights & no responsibilities. Comes to show that as Line Managers you need to behaving conversations with your people all the time about the things that are important becasue that 'clean record' is generally not always that clean....

  • by caca 7/08/2014 11:04:35 AM

    I agree with SDM, I would've thought those 2 policies and let's be honest the obvious nature of this behaviour would lead to possible termination.

  • by Marc 8/08/2014 9:35:00 AM

    Without reading the whole judgement. it seems that there was a certain culture here even a condoning of such behaviour given that managers and supervisors were sharing the material. There have been a few cases reported here where this contributed to termination being deemed too harsh. I agree it seems like a 'no-brainer' that this type of behaviour is not acceptable but nevertheless it was 'acceptable' in this particular section/dept ie it was left to happen for a period. If so then it seems an overt reminder of policies and acceptable behaviour is required before any terminations are deemed appropriate for further transgressions. As SDM notes, the importance of Line Mgrs is crucial in reinforcing appropriate behaviours and not letting things 'slide'.

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