Worker resigns over manager's comments on her 'facial piercings and weight'

Worker claims she was not happy at work so she was forced to resign

Worker resigns over manager's comments on her 'facial piercings and weight'

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) recently dealt with a dismissal claim from a worker who said she was forced to resign over her manager’s “unwarranted” comments about her facial piercings and her body size.

She said her employer did not address her issues with the said manager, and this conduct consequently left her feeling “uncomfortable” and unhappy in the workplace.

Skye Lillian Baker filed before the FWC to deal with a general protections dispute involving her alleged dismissal by The Trustee for the Hotel Property Trust No 2 T/A Pier 21 Apartment Hotel. The employer argued that the worker was not dismissed.

The worker did not accept the manager’s apology

The worker served as the employer's guest service agent, and she had to report to the front office manager, Vhic Dunn. The employer confirmed that she had raised concerns over her manager’s conduct around November 2022.

Her complaints involved Dunn's comments about "her piercings and ordering a uniform for the [worker] which was too large." The employer said the manager attempted to apologise to the worker, but the latter did not accept her apology.

It said the worker decided "to resign of her own free will to pursue another job which paid a higher wage." It added the worker "failed to provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the conduct of the employer left [her] with no alternative but to resign from her employment."

'Unwarranted comments' about the worker's appearance

According to records, the worker said that the employer "failed to address her concerns over the behaviour of her manager, Dunn."

She claimed that Dunn's behaviour "left her with no alternative but to resign from her employment once she had secured a job offer."

She said her manager "made unwarranted comments about her weight (in reference to ordering a uniform) and her facial piercings" and that these "had left her feeling uncomfortable in the workplace."

She also disagreed about Dunn’s "efforts to apologise." She said the manager's "attitude was defensive and dismissive prior to issuing her apology."

The worker further said that aside from the "unwarranted" comments, the manager also:

  • Failed to accommodate her roster requests;
  • Would contact her on her day off by text message with non-urgent questions;
  • Would not respond to her text messages;
  • Failed to provide her with further training and development;
  • She told the employer that she "was not happy" and so, secured an offer after her resignation.

HRD previously reported about a manager's dismissal claim that alleged he was fired after his employer’s management saw “negative” messages that he sent on Microsoft Teams.

Did the manager’s ‘hurtful’ comments force the worker to resign?

Based on its assessment, the FWC said the employer’s conduct did not constitute “offensive or targeted behaviour.”

However, the FWC faulted the manager for her remarks about the worker. “The comments regarding her physical appearance were offensive. It is clear that her manager would have benefitted from further training and development in relation to her management style.”

“[Dunn’s comments] are, understandably, hurtful,” it added.

“Personal opinions on an employee’s physical appearance are irrelevant to their performance and, unless perhaps due to dress code compliance issues, should not be voiced in the workplace,” the Commission said.

“It appears that there are some deficiencies in the attention to detail and organisational skills of her manager. However, these deficiencies [do not] rise to the level of conduct or contribution to a course of conduct, that would force resignation,” it added.

“Although hurtful in their effect, the comments appear to arise from ignorance and a lack of sensitivity, as opposed to being particularly cruel and harsh. In summary, [her comments do not] rise to the level of conduct that would leave the [worker] with no alternative but to resign,” it said.

“The [worker] experienced some interpersonal issues in the workplace and made the choice to voluntarily resign. This is an understandable conclusion for [her] to have made, but it was not forced by the conduct of the [employer],” the Commission said. Thus, it rejected the worker’s application.

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