4 strange unfair dismissal cases you won’t believe
Unfair dismissal cases are generally quite mundane and routine (but always personal). They can often, however, involve fiery exchanges between an employee and their employer. And sometimes, they can involve circumstances that are quite frankly strange and hard to believe. 4 strange unfair dismissal cases you won’t believe can be more than interesting reading. Learn what to stay away from and maybe you can help others.
In this article, we share four strange unfair dismissal cases involving serious misconduct that have come before the Fair Work Commission in recent years. The circumstances around these cases are truly out of the ordinary, and the rulings for some may surprise you.
Manager pretends to faint before dismissal for serious misconduct
The very strange unfair dismissal case Karan Sharma vs Coles Supermarkets Australia Pty Ltd  was one that hit the headlines earlier this year. It involved 33-year-old Karan Sharma, the caretaker manager of Caversham Coles in Perth. Mr Sharma, who had worked for Coles since 2015, was dismissed from his $168,000-per-year job for serious misconduct in October 2021. His dismissal came after Coles management received a series of complaints from Mr Sharma’s co-workers detailing his serious misconduct.
This included that Mr Sharma displayed preferential treatment for his wife, who worked at the same Coles store. Namely, that he’d asked a colleague to alter her contract so she would work hours favourable to their children’s day care arrangements. Mr Sharma was also alleged to have made racist, homophobic and transphobic remarks. These were made in reference to posters displayed in the store to celebrate NAIDOC week. And also posters that displayed support for members of the LGBTQI community.
Mr Sharma was also alleged to have regularly sworn at and acted aggressively toward his team members, in addition to pressuring them to stay at work. He also allegedly made them perform personal tasks for him and made threats that they would lose their jobs if they complained. Mr Sharma also regularly didn’t clock off from work and ordered a subordinate to clock him off well after he had left the store.
Employee claims he was unfairly dismissed for serious misconduct
Coles launched a workplace investigation into Mr Sharma’s serious misconduct conduct, during which he swore and yelled at the woman conducting it. When she finished reading all the allegations made against him, Mr Sharma aggressively and incoherently yelled out allegations against his co-workers.
He claimed that his “disgruntled” co-workers were waging “a war on him.” And that he was a victim of “career assassination” and “fabricated lies.” But what Mr Sharma did next is what makes this a truly strange unfair dismissal case. When Mr Sharma was told that he was being dismissed for serious misconduct, he “threw himself onto the floor” and pretended to faint. Mr Sharma “had his eyes closed and was not speaking” on the floor for about 45 seconds.
Following his dismissal for serious misconduct, it was alleged that Mr Sharma had repeatedly contacted his Coles colleagues in an aggressive and intimidating manner. He subsequently made an unfair dismissal application with the Fair Work Commission. However, the unfair dismissal claim was unsuccessful. The Fair Work Commission found that Mr Sharma was evasive and unreasonable, and that his evidence wasn’t credible.
Employee unfairly dismissed for serious misconduct for sharing Hitler meme wins $200K
The strange unfair dismissal case Scott Tracey vs BP Refinery (Kwinana) Pty Ltd  provided a very unique situation for the Fair Work Commission to rule upon. It involved Scott Tracey, an operations technician for a BP Refinery in Western Australia, who was dismissed for serious misconduct.
In 2017, workers at the refinery were engaged in prolonged and tense bargaining with BP Australia to come to a new collective employment agreement. In 2018, the parties participated in bargaining facilitated by the Fair Work Commission, however without success. At this time, Mr Tracey’s wife created a video titled “Hitler Parody EA Negotiations.” The video used footage from the 2004 German language film “Downfall,” which portrays the final days of Adolf Hitler’s life. In the video, Hitler is shown aggressively speaking to his generals as Germany is on the brink of defeat during WW2.
The parody video included English captions of what Hitler was supposedly saying. It made it seem like Hitler was commenting on the employment agreement bargaining, with the Nazi leader making several unflattering references to it. Mr Tracey posted the video in a private Facebook group of BP workers. But it was soon reported to BP management, who failed to see the humorous side of it.
Employee is dismissed for serious misconduct
BP launched a workplace investigation into the sharing of the Hitler video. And in early 2019, Mr Tracey was summarily dismissed for serious misconduct. BP felt that the video was “highly offensive and inappropriate.” Mr Tracey subsequently made an unfair dismissal application with the Fair Work Commission. He argued that he had shared the video outside of work hours. Also, that he had shared it with a private Facebook group, and not to the public.
In Mr Tracey’s first unfair dismissal hearing, the Fair Work Commission found that he had been fairly dismissed. This was because it was found that Mr Tracey had compared his bosses to Hitler and the Nazis. He subsequently appealed the decision at the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission.
In his second unfair dismissal hearing in 2020, Mr Tracey argued that the video was meant to be humorous and that it didn’t name any of his bosses. He said that it simply satirized the bargaining process. This time, the Fair Work Commission ruled in favor of Mr Tracey. It ordered BP to pay him over $200,000 in lost salary, bonuses and superannuation. It also ordered BP to reinstate Mr Tracey.
Apprentice electrician unfairly dismissed for serious misconduct by “Nazi Sparky”
Just when you thought there couldn’t be another Nazi-themed unfair dismissal case, we’ve found one. Mr Jordan Lamacq vs Smerff Electrical  is a strange unfair dismissal case that involves an apprentice electrician, Jordan Lamacq, who was dismissed for serious misconduct by Smerff Electrical in 2018.
Smerff Electrical is run by Simon Hickey, who called himself the “Nazi Sparky” on his business website. In 2017, Smerff Electrical was reported to have been a corporate sponsor of the US-based neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer. The Daily Stormer site features sections about what its creators deem as the “Jewish Problem” and an apparent “Race War.” This is among many other examples of highly racist content on the site.
You may be surprised, however, that Mr Hickey’s racist inclinations had nothing to do with this unfair dismissal case. He had dismissed Mr Lamacq because he believed the first-year apprentice had stolen from him. Also, that Mr Lamacq had misused a company vehicle. Mr Hickey also claimed that the apprentice had performed a cash job without his permission. He subsequently provided an ultimatum for Mr Lamacq to provide the address of the cash job or quit his job. The duo then exchanged a number of texts and emails in which Mr Hickey used very offensive language and threatened Mr Lamacq.
Challenged to lodge a unfair dismissal claim
This included one very offensive email where Mr Hickey goaded Mr Lamacq to make an unfair dismissal claim, stating that it would be a fruitless endeavor.
“Live and learn dumb c*nt,” read the email. “I never would have picked you as a thief but now I know better. Here’s the number for fair work Australia 13 13 94. Do you know how many calls they get per day? Boo Hoo this c*nt fired me and he wasn’t paying me leave loading 12% or some sh*t. Do you know what these c*nts do about it? Nothing unless it’s a company worth prosecuting.” Mr Lamacq was subsequently dismissed for serious misconduct by Smerff Electrical.
Employee makes an unfair dismissal claim with the Fair Work Commission
At Mr Lamacq’s unfair dismissal hearing with the Fair Work Commission, Smerff Electrical argued that its actions were fair. Mr Hickey said that Mr Lamacq’s dismissal for serious misconduct was due to his “fraudulent misuse of company property and failure to carry out a lawful and reasonable instruction.”
The Fair Work Commission however disagreed. It found that the allegations of theft were unfounded and that the language used by Mr Hickey’s to Mr Lamacq was “appalling.” The Fair Work Commission said that “no employee should ever be subjected to the threats and abuse meted out by Mr Hickey.” The Fair Work Commission found that Mr Lamacq’s dismissal for serious misconduct was “devoid of procedural fairness.” It ordered Smerff Electrical to pay Mr Lamacq $11,400 in compensation.
Rigger who chest-bumped colleague for stealing cowboy hat loses unfair dismissal case
The strange unfair dismissal case Kristian Weir vs Bechtel Construction (Australia) Pty Ltd  delivered a truly bizarre situation for the Fair Work Commission to consider. It involved a rigger, Kristian Weir, who worked for Bechtel Construction on the Wheatstone Project in Western Australia.
On the work site were located a number of worker villages. Believing there was the potential for alcohol-fuelled violence at the villages, Bechtel required employees to sign a “Golden Rules Form.” The form stated that if found fighting, an employee will have their accommodation immediately withdrawn.
A year into his job in July 2017, Mr Weir was having a beer in one of the villages when another worker snatched his cowboy hat from his head. The incident was caught on CCTV, including Mr Weir chasing the man and grabbing him on the back of his neck. The man then threw the hat away and Mr Weir chest bumped him. Mr Weir then sustained three punches to the head, before the duo were pulled apart.
Employee is dismissed for serious misconduct
Bechtel subsequently launched an investigation into the fight and summoned Mr Weir to a disciplinary meeting. Mr Weir argued that he was acting in self-defense, claiming that the man had said to him “I don’t like you, I don’t like f*cking cowboys.” But despite this explanation, Bechtel decided to dismiss Mr Weir for serious misconduct. This was because he got into a fight in contravention to the “Golden Rules Form.” We’ve previously written about the potential consequences of getting into a fight at work, and making a self-defense argument, which you can read here.
Mr Weir subsequently made an unfair dismissal claim with the Fair Work Commission. At his hearing, Mr Weir argued that his actions were in self-defence. Also, that Bechtel had denied him procedural fairness. He claimed that the company had decided to dismiss him prior to his disciplinary meeting.
However, the Fair Work Commission found that Mr Weir’s dismissal wasn’t unfair. It rejected his argument of self-defense. This was despite stating that the man’s actions in snatching Mr Weir’s cowboy hat was “juvenile.” And that the man’s comments were “inflammatory.” The Fair Work Commission ruled that Bechtel had “gone to great lengths to alert employees of their obligations.” That is, with respect to the Golden Rules Form. Mr Weir’s unfair dismissal case was therefore dismissed.
Conclusion to: 4 strange unfair dismissal cases you won’t believe
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