Dismissed for omitting smiley emoji
Woman dismissed for not using smiley emoji
A Queensland woman was dismissed by a Gold Coast café after her boss said she was being “unfriendly” by failing to include a smiley face emoji in a text message. The woman took her case to the Fair Work Commission (FWC), who in July ruled that her dismissal was unfair. It is stressful times, but there is no excuse for bullying, unfairly dismissing someone, to not give all employees a “fair go” (procedural fairness). Dismissed for omitting smiley emoji article is more relevant than ever.
The unfair dismissal case – Kristen Gordon v Sens Catering Group Pty Ltd  – involves Kristen Gordon, who worked as a supervisor by Sens Catering Group, otherwise known as Sens Café, for 14 months. She was known as a reliable and hard-working employee, and while she was a casual, worked full time hours.
But in November 2021, Ms Gordon’s work life soon took a turn for the worse. This was when the ex-wife of Sens Catering’s owner, Phoebe Wang, took up the duties of general manager. The trouble started when Ms Gordon was brought into a meeting because she had told the café manager that she couldn’t work some days because she was receiving IVF treatment.
Ms Gordon was forced to divulge details about her personal life to Ms Wang, who questioned whether she should be working while receiving treatment. Ms Gordon affirmed that she needed the money, and that she could still perform her duties, besides lifting milk crates.
“FIRE HER RIGHT NOW!!”
In March 2022, Ms Gordon felt the full wrath of Ms Chen’s anger when she sent a group text message to her and other managers. In the text, Ms Gordon expressed the need for the business to hire another staff member, as the café was understaffed. Ms Chen’s previous solution to this problem was to order Ms Gordon to “close the floor- do takeaways only/ close cold drinks section.”
When Ms Wang read the text message, she became extremely irate at Ms Gordon. A manager who was with Ms Wang at the time said that she smashed her phone on the counter. She then jumped up and down while screaming “FIRE HER RIGHT NOW!! Hire another supervisor I don’t care about the cost, do it now!”
When the manager asked Ms Wang why she was so angry, she repeatedly said it was because Ms Gordon “didn’t add any smiley faces! There are no emotions!” Because of this, Ms Wang considered the text “unfriendly.”
Ms Wang starts planning the worker’s dismissal
The manager became very uncomfortable at this very aggressive display. She attempted to reason with Ms Wang, saying that the text was nothing out of the ordinary, and that Ms Gordon didn’t mean to cause any harm. To this, Ms Wang simply reiterated that the lack of emojis was rude and repeatedly called for Ms Gordon to be dismissed.
That afternoon, Ms Wang offered Ms Gordon’s job to the manager. When the manager was unsure about accepting the offer, Ms Wang said “are you worried about hurting her feelings? Don’t worry about that we have wanted to get rid of Kristen for a long time.” Later that afternoon, the manager spoke with Ms Gordon and told her about the incident with Ms Wang.
The Café worker is dismissed by the company
Turning up at the café the next day, Ms Gordon was told by a different manager that she was forced to dismiss her. The manager said that she had tried to change Ms Wang’s mind, but that she couldn’t be convinced otherwise. Ms Gordon asked for a reason for her dismissal, but the best that the manager could provide was that the business was getting rid of staff that didn’t agree with the owners.
Employer makes a suspicious offer
After having her employment terminated, Ms Gordon filed an unfair dismissal application with the Fair work. However, a week after her dismissal, Ms Wang came and spoke to her and offered her two weeks paid leave. She also offered Ms Gordon a position at a new store the Sens Catering owners were investing in.
Ms Wang explained that Sens Catering would own a small percentage of the store. When Ms Gordon asked if there would be an interview process, Ms Wang said that there wouldn’t. She told Ms Gordon that she would simply tell the store’s other investors that Ms Gordon was “good.”
Ms Gordon was suspicious. After questioning the offer, Ms Wang offered to give Ms Gordon two weeks off and that after that, she could start the new role. Ms Gordon asked for the offer to be put in writing, but Ms Wang declined. At that point, Ms Gordon ended the conversation.
The Fair work orders employer to pay $14,300
Sens Catering declined to participate in Ms Gordon’s unfair dismissal hearing with the FWC. The company did, however, submit that Ms Gordon was offered two weeks paid leave “in good faith” after she was dismissed. It also contended that Ms Gordon had agreed to return back to work thanks to this offer.
Like Ms Gordon, Commissioner Chris Simpson found Sens Catering’s offer to be suspect.
“I am inclined to the view that Ms Wang’s offer of additional payment to [Ms Gordon] as a casual employee and a period of ‘paid leave’, and the potential offer of other future employment with another business at the end of that period of ‘leave’ were attempts to resolve the dispute about the earlier dismissal, rather than either an offer to rescind the termination, or to attempt to maintain a purported ongoing casual employment relationship,”Commissioner Simpson.
Commissioner Simpson found that had Ms Gordon not been unfairly dismissed, she would have kept her job for at least three more months. He therefore ordered Sens Catering to pay her $14,300.
The Commissioner, however, subtracted several payments made by Sens Catering to Ms Gordon following her dismissal. He also subtracted wages that she had earned from a short-term casual job. This left her with $5,300 in compensation, plus superannuation.
Has the world gone mad? Offending your boss is now seemingly easier than ever.
The aforementioned case is a glaring example of how some employers can perhaps be a tad too precious at times. Sacking someone for omitting a smiley emoji might go down as perhaps the most absurd reason in history. Should employees simply pick up the phone like in the old days, and therefore avoid the apparent pitfalls of digital communication? This might be a good idea when it comes to some bosses. While being offended by a text message that lacks an emoji is an extraordinarily extreme reaction, it does raise a key question. What is considered offensive in a workplace context?
Of course, sending a text or email that features, for example, racist or sexist sentiment would universally be considered offensive. For an employee, sending such communications to their boss would likely see them suffer legitimate consequences. For instance, they could be fairly dismissed for breaching their employer’s code of conduct.
The problem with text messages and emails, however, is that even if you aren’t intending to be offensive, at times, your words could be interpreted as so. Such digital means of communication, after all, don’t allow you to convey tone. Sometimes, the recipient may project their own tone onto your words, and this could cause offence.
A different unfair dismissal case, this time in New Zealand, provides another example of how a digital message can be misinterpreted as offensive. And this one is almost as hard to believe as the emoji case.
Accountant dismissed for using capitalized letters
In 2007, an Auckland accountant was dismissed for regularly sending “controversial” emails that featured words that were capitalized, in bold and red.
The accountant, Vicki Walker, had been the financial controller for ProCare Health for two years. The so-called controversial emails that she sent were to advise her team how to complete staff claim forms. In the emails, she would highlight the time and date by making it bold and red. She also wrote a sentence in all capitals, which read: “TO ENSURE YOUR STAFF CLAIM IS PROCESSED AND PAID, PLEASE DO FOLLOW THE BELOW CHECKLIST.”
Following her dismissal, Ms Walker made an unfair dismissal claim with New Zealand’s Employment Relations Authority. As part of her hearing, ProCare health told the Authority that Ms Walker’s emails had “caused disharmony” in the workplace. The Authority, however, sternly disagreed that Ms Walker’s dismissal was warranted. ProCare didn’t have a style or etiquette guide for emails, therefore it wasn’t clear to Ms Walker that her emails would be unacceptable.
“I am a single woman with a mortgage, and I had to re-mortgage my home and borrow money from my sister to make it through,” said Ms Walker of the ordeal. “They nearly ruined my life”. Fortunately sanity prevailed, and the Authority ruled that her dismissal was unfair. She was awarded $17,000 in compensation.
Conclusion to Dismissed for omitting smiley emoji
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