Fair Work Commission
(FWC) has ruled the dismissal of a former Choice Homes employee who sent a lewd email as unfair, in part due to the company culture.
The court document reveals that CEO Troy Knight purchased a Lamborghini in April. Two months later – on the 20th
anniversary of his involvement with the company – he received an email from construction manager Steve Bignill.
The email included an image of a 20 year service medallion and a Lamborghini, with the subject line reading: “Congratulations you have reached 20 years’ service on the books… and your reward is a Lamborghini.”
The email was also sent to the group ‘AllStaff’, meaning it reached all staff at the company. Shortly after, financial controller Paul Cronin responded to the email, sending it to himself, Bignill, and the AllStaff group. The subject line stated “RE: Congratulations – I actually found his original resume too!!”
Attached to the email was a fake resume lifted from humour site Lamebook. The resume included “Excessive Masturbation” under the header “Hobbies & Interests”. Upon seeing it, Knight contacted his solicitors who summarily dismissed Cronin.
Despite Knight telling the FWC that he felt sexually harassed by the email and that the inappropriate content would cause problems within the company, the dismissal was ruled as unfair. The FWC’s decision was based on the fact that the email was clearly a joke. In addition, it was found that employees of Choice Homes regularly exchanged emails containing explicit content.
“Those emails run the full gamut of offensiveness and it appears that no stone was left unturned and no depths unplumbed by staff of Choice Homes, in their exchange and dissemination of pornographic, sexually explicit, sexist, racist, scatological and generally derogatory material using the Choice Homes email system,” the decision read.
The full decision can be read here.
The case is reminiscent of Fair Work Australia’s decision regarding Australia Post employees
who were terminated for sending adult material in work emails, with the industrial tribunal ruling their firing as ‘harsh’ due to the workplace culture fostering the behaviour.
Speaking to HC
at the time of the Australia Post story, Herbert Smith Freehills
special counsel Lisa Croxford said that organisations must ensure such cultures do not crop up in the workplace.
“If you’ve got a culture where this kind of stuff is going on then you need to have a program in place to address it,” she said. “To a lot of other people they’ll say ‘This is just what you’ll see on TV’ but it’s not … same with some of the images that get circulated around that might have images of women who are naked and a comment underneath that makes it appear humorous. That comment doesn’t offset the fact that that material is potentially sex discrimination.”
What do you think of the decision? Have you dealt with inappropriate content in workplace emails?