Mon 05 2018

Employee dismissed for inappropriately touching co-worker

The recent Fair Work Commission decision in George Talevski v Chalmers Industries Pty Ltd1 remind employers that they have a duty to protect employees against the inappropriate conduct in the workplace.

In this unfair dismissal case, the applicant was dismissed for serious misconduct after he:

  • swore, raised his voice and banged the desk in a loud and threatening manner in a meeting in the office of the CFO
  • refused to leave the CFO’s office despite repeated directions to do so
  • on a number of occasions touched the hair and shoulders of the employer’s receptionist and
  • despite being directed not to enter the building where the receptionist worked, entered the building a number of times on one day to repeatedly question the receptionist as to whether she had complained to management about him.

Employees in the business had not received workplace behaviour training, but the employer was able to show that each year it required each employee to sign off that they have read and understood the employer’s policies.

The applicant said he was not given an opportunity to respond to the reasons for the termination. The Commissioner rejected this position, finding that the employer had put the allegations to him at least twice. The applicant chose not to respond to his employer – instead opting to send a ‘written response’ to his colleagues.

The receptionist gave evidence that she did not consider the conduct to be of a sexual nature and she had not wanted to get the employee into trouble, but she wanted his conduct (which had reduced her to tears on one occasion) to stop.

Whilst the receptionist claimed the conduct was not sexual harassment, the employer rightly still treated it as inappropriate workplace conduct and dismissed the employee.

The Commission agreed, reinforcing the position that employers have a duty to protect employees against the inappropriate conduct and not just sexual harassment in the workplace. The Fair Work Commission found this was a valid reason for dismissal and dismissed the application.


1[2018] FWC 1807

Contact

Aaron has extensive employment and industrial relations law experience working with clients across a range of industries.

More about Aaron

Iona has experience in assisting clients with both litigious and non-litigious employment and workplace relations matters.

More about Iona

You might be also interested in...

Thinking | Thu 03 2007

Corporate and Financial Services Reform Update March 2007

The first tranche of draft regulations was released for public consultation on 26 March 2007 as part of the Corporations and Financial Services Regulation Review process. Some key issues dealt with in the first round of draft regulations are set out below: Keeping Financial Services Guides and Product Disclosure Statements up to date Where there […]

Thinking | Mon 05 2007

Compensation Arrangements for Financial Services Providers

Yesterday the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer (Chris Pearce), announced that regulations to complement section 912B of the Corporations Act 2001 (the Act) are expected to be made by 1 July 2007. The Act requires financial services licensees that provide financial services to retail clients to have in place appropriate compensation arrangements. The arrangements must either be approved […]