Chevron told to reinstate employee who made racist slur

by John Hilton29 May 2017
A Chevron Australia employee who was terminated for using a racist slur has been found to have been unfairly dismissed, the Fair Work Commission has ruled.

The FWC found dismissal was too severe for the offence and the workers' actions were "careless rather than involving reckless indifference".

However, the FWC did not award compensation for lost remuneration, finding the employee had caused offence to employees and had a responsibility to Chevron to comply with its policies.

HRD contacted Chevron for comment and a spokesperson said the company respects the FWC’s decision as an independent arbiter.

“Chevron Australia is fully committed to providing a diverse and inclusive work environment which is free from unlawful discrimination and where individual differences are respected,” said the statement.

“This commitment is reflected in policies, training and associated programs.”

The employee was on a bus to Chevron’s Gorgon project on Western Australia’s Barrow Island when he told colleagues a story about a friend and his girlfriend, “who was a young gin”.

The worker spoke about how his friend "rooted a gin down the beach" and had to leave her behind because he was "getting his arse chewed by sand-flies".

Another worker responded he "used to see gins hitchhiking from place to place and men would pick them up and f--- the bums off them and dump them in the middle of nowhere to make their own way back into town".

The comments were overheard by two indigenous workers and one complained that his "blood was boiling" and his "adrenalin was pumping". He also said he was “hurt, angry and so disgusted, as these disgusting comments are directed towards all the women” in his family.

Chevron dismissed the worker for "inappropriate workplace behaviour" after finding his use of the term "gin" was "absolutely intolerable" and contrary to its anti-discrimination policy.

However, the employee argued he had not realised "gin" was a derogatory term for indigenous women until he had googled it after the incident.

The employee also argued that he only thought it was derogatory if it was told directly to an indigenous woman.

He said he had apologised immediately to his indigenous colleagues and said he had a past history of advocating for and mentoring indigenous people.

The worker had been previously employed by BHP Billiton as an indigenous employment adviser and later by Fortescue Metals Group as an indigenous development adviser between 2010 and 2013.

He also gave evidence that he had been told by Chevron employees that a couple of weeks after he had been dismissed, another employee had used the word “nigger” in a meeting at the workplace with managers and he had only been given a written warning for this.

The commissioner Bruce Williams said the second indigenous man who overheard the bus comments had told Chevron that “growing up in WA in his culture ‘gin’ is not necessarily derogatory … Regard should have been had for the fact there was a range of opinion as to how rude or offensive using the word ‘gin’ was’’.

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COMMENTS

  • by Simon 29/05/2017 2:23:13 PM

    It seems unlikely that someone who was previously employed as an indigenous employment adviser and also as an indigenous development adviser in two major corporations wouldn't understand that the term used to describe indigenous women is offensive.

  • by K Robson 13/06/2017 4:02:49 PM

    It would be offensive to talk like this about ANY woman...even if it wasn't a racial slur (and I would argue anyone with his background should have known, plus the term being used by Indigenous people versus non- doesn't in and of itself does not make it abiguous), it certainly was derogatory towards women and therefore sexually discriminatory.

  • by Robert Harris 14/06/2017 10:27:43 PM

    Regardless of the gender of said topic in this case indigenous women, it is derogatory and dehumanising, downgrading of all female persons if the shoe was on the other foot and the mention terms were used and who happened to be related to the said instigator what would their response be???.
    I find it hard to believe this said person wasn't aware of his terms reference was offensive!. It would seem of owning up and acceptable responsibility for one's own actions is no longer morale.

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