Employee reinstated despite napping, watching movies at work

Airline employee apparently violated code of conduct, dress code

Employee reinstated despite napping, watching movies at work

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) dealt with the case of a cabin crew supervisor who lodged an unfair dismissal application, alleging that she was harshly and unreasonably dismissed from her long-standing employment.

In its defense, the supervisor’s employer, Virgin Australia, argued that the worker breached several codes of conduct and dress codes during her employment.

However, despite the strong claims made by the employer, the FWC still favoured the worker after carefully considering her long-standing employment in the airline. 

Background of the case

The worker had been assigned as a cabin crew supervisor for Virgin Australia since June 2007.

During her employment, she allegedly violated the airline’s code of conduct, including “removing snacks from the aircraft, sitting in a passenger seat, watching movies on an iPad and falling asleep when required to observe the flight procedures, and, lastly, not returning to cabin crew seat for landing,” the FWC said.

Aside from these breaches, the employer accused the worker of violating the attendance protocol on several occasions, such as being late for duty and failing to sign in for duty before the flight.

Records revealed that the flight attendant also allegedly violated Virgin Australia’s dress code policy, even though there were already recent discussions about improving her presentation.

The parties’ arguments

The worker maintained that she was not afforded procedural fairness in the investigation of allegations against her and her eventual termination.

She claimed that the employer had withheld the evidence of the allegations made about her during the process, adding that the evidence she gave in support of her show cause process was “not fully and reasonably considered” when she was terminated.

“Heartbroken by the allegations,” she argued that she “went above and beyond” her duties, citing the allegations as “serious” and that she considered them to be “defamation.”

Meanwhile, the employer submitted  that  its  reasons  for  dismissal  “involved  elements  of  theft, dishonesty,  and  the  wilful  neglect  of  training  that  was  meant  to  ensure  the  [worker] could safely perform her duties.”

FWC’s decision

After closely assessing the worker’s 14 years of employment and how the employee had been off work for long periods due to COVID-19, the FWC ultimately ordered the reinstatement of the cabin crew supervisor in the workplace.

“The events in question took place over a very short period in comparison to her length of service, and alternatives to termination were not reasonably considered by Virgin,” the FWC said.

“The airline also took four months to investigate the case and stated the delay was due to dealing with other COVID-related matters,” it added.

While the FWC recognised the airline’s effort to give the employee ample time to respond to the intended dismissal, it found the disciplinary measures to be unfair because of her record of employment and the inability of the airline to notify the cabin crew supervisor that prior warnings would be considered in her proposed dismissal.

“Circumstances related to the breaches were not adequately assessed. Alternatives to termination were not reasonably considered,” the FWC said.

“[While] a valid reason existed simply based on the breaches of the operating procedures and code of conduct, the dismissal was harsh, unjust, and unreasonable,” it added. Thus, the FWC ordered the reinstatement of the worker.

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