Anti-Islam employee awarded $30,000 for “unreasonable” dismissal

A former employee of Theiss who sent an email maligning Muslims at work was found to have been unfairly dismissed by the FWC.

An employee has been awarded almost $30,000 after he was dismissed for sending an email on the company’s system which expressed strong anti-Islamic views and encouraged recipients to share them.

The FWC found that while the reason for termination was valid, the employee’s prospects of finding subsequent work and the lack of formal warning preceding termination made it “harsh and unreasonable”.

Ronald Anderson had worked as a workshop trainer and assessor for Theiss for 18 months before he was dismissed on the grounds of committing serious misconduct.
Anderson did not dispute that he had sent the email from his Theiss email address to several colleagues, the subject of which was “World War 3 – PASS IT ON”. The email maligned persons of the Muslim faith, and was deemed highly offensive.

The FWC acknowledged that Anderson genuinely held the views expressed in the email, and that his only regret was that sending it resulted in his dismissal. Anderson also displayed a lack of understanding that the email could be found offensive to those who were not of Muslim faith.

Anderson argued that he was not the author of the email and simply forwarded it onto others, claiming that he had an otherwise unblemished employment record.

He also claimed that he had not been properly trained in using Theiss’ email system, and had previously received similar emails from other employees, including his supervisor.

He added that he had been unaware that forwarding the email would be grounds for dismissal, and if he had known he would not have sent it, as he would have significant difficulty in finding other work as he was 65 years of age.

Theiss claimed that Anderson had been previously warned about his unacceptable use of company email systems, and that his misconduct had destroyed the relationship of trust and confidence which they felt was necessary between an employer and employee.

The company also argued that due to their close professional association with Indonesian companies, a county where Islam is widely practiced, Anderson’s email could have caused serious reputational damage.

The FWC stated that Australia is a free country, and individuals are entitled to hold any view – but Anderson was not free to share such views on Theiss’ electronic information system or on Theiss’ time.

The FWC held that although there was a valid reason for Anderson’s dismissal, it was unfair on the grounds that it was harsh and unreasonable because of the consequences for Anderson’s future employment and because he had not received a previous warning that such actions could lead to termination. As Anderson made a significant contribution towards his dismissal, the amount of compensation he was awarded was reduced by 50% to $28,578.68. 

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