Sacked for behaving badly, alot of employees lack insight as to what they have done wrong. The best way is to avoid wayward behaviour.
6 times employees were sacked for dumb decisions
There are no shortage of unfair dismissal cases involving workers who, for some reason or another, got themselves fired for dumb behaviour. From public indecency and drunkenness to groping and sending dick pics, the Fair Work Commission has heard it all. In this article, we share six unfair dismissal cases where workers expected to keep their jobs despite shocking behaviour. Warning: some of these cases involve explicit language and themes, so beware if you are easily offended. Sacked for behaving badly are calls we get everyday.
Teacher swills from cask of wine during work meeting
The Fair Work Commission case Anthony Duncan v Chief Minister, Treasury & Economic Development Directorate  involved a teacher who got a bit too comfortable at home. At 11am on 16 August 2021, teacher at Canberra’s Lyneham Primary School Anthony Duncan had a one-on-one video meeting with his supervisor. With the COVID lockdown still in place, the duo were discussing online learning options for the school. But during the meeting, Mr Duncan decided to lift a cask of wine over his head, open the tap and proceed to gulp down some wine. He was also smoking during the meeting.
Drinking wine was in breach of the school’s code of conduct, which states that teachers must not be under the influence of alcohol. While the school stopped short of dismissing Mr Duncan, it decided to reduce his pay for 12 months. He subsequently appealed the decision, but the school remained steadfast. That was when Mr Duncan made a dispute resolution claim with the Fair Work Commission.
Teacher argued that he was not at work
In his claim, he described the allegations made against him as “hyperbolic and lacking in veracity and thereby vociferously denied.” Mr Duncan did not deny that he drank and smoked during the meeting. However, he argued that he was not “affected by alcohol” and he thought that the meeting had concluded. He also claimed that he was not “in the workplace” because the meeting was online.
The Fair Work Commission, however, felt that Mr Duncan’s arguments were “misconceived.” It stated that even though he was working from home, he was still technically at work. As such, the school had a “duty to ensure a safe workspace in a person’s home when working from home.” It was accepted that Mr Duncan knew that the school’s policy “prohibited the consumption of alcohol during hours of duty.” Ultimately, the Fair Work Commission found the docking of Mr Duncan’s pay as “reasonable and proportionate.”
Foul-mouthed manager fails to discipline farting flight attendant
The behaviour uncovered in the termination case Nathan Woods v Jetstar Airways Pty Ltd  is truly shocking. Jetstar supervisor Nathan Woods was sacked by the airline for failing to discipline a “excessively flatulent” flight attendant who often loudly passed wind in front of others. Mr Woods was alleged to have fostered a “toxic atmosphere.” He had called his colleagues “dumb c**ts” and had made discriminatory comments about Asians spreading COVID.
Mr Wood argued that he should not have been fired as his subordinate had kept his job. He attempted to demonise his subordinate by saying that he would “put his legs up on the table or part his butt cheeks and fart for as long as possible.” Mr Wood also claimed that his direct report would show off his erect penis through his trousers and proceed to “pet” it.
Fair Work Commission finds sacking was fair
However, this argument was rejected as the Fair Work Commission considered Mr Wood’s conduct entirely different to that of his direct report’s. By not reporting his subordinate’s sexual harassment, Mr Wood had breached Jetstar’s code of conduct. The Fair Work Commission said that it was “simply unacceptable” for him not to report his subordinate’s behaviour. It also concluded that Mr Woods calling colleagues “dumb c**ts” was a valid reason for being sacked.
Worker stored his own sex tape on work PC
The unfair dismissal case Allan Croft v Smarter Insurance Brokers Pty Ltd  involved a general insurance manager who made a stupid decision. But in the end, he won big with his Fair Work Commission claim. Mr Croft was fired by Smarter Insurance Brokers in January 2016 for poor performance and questionable conduct. While searching through his internet history, the company discovered post-dismissal that Mr Croft stored “hardcore” pornography on his work PC. And not only from the internet, but a personal video showing himself performing sex acts.
In his claim, Mr Croft argued to the Fair Work Commission that he had downloaded the explicit material “outside of work hours.” And he contended that he never received any verbal or written warnings about his poor performance. Nor was he provided with any of the reasons for his sacking. Mr Croft also argued that Smarter Insurance had a reason for bringing up the porn stored on his PC. He believed this was because the company had relied on a certain clause in his contract to end his employment, but realised they could not.
Employee wins massive $10K payout
Despite having stored porn – including his own – on his employer’s PC, Mr Croft ended up winning big at the Fair Work Commission. It noted that using work equipment to access porn would typically amount to misconduct. But it was found that Smarter Insurance did not have a policy that required work PC’s to only be used for work purposes.
The Fair Work Commission also acknowledged the company’s “severely flawed” dismissal process, having denied Mr Croft the chance to respond to the allegations. It therefore ruled that his sacking was unfair and ordered Smarter Insurance to pay him $10,000.
Coles worker fired for sending manager dick pic
The unfair dismissal case Jay Higgins v Coles Supermarkets Australia Pty Ltd  is another example of an employee thinking they will keep their job after doing something incredibly stupid. Jay Higgins was a baker at Toowong Coles in Brisbane. In September 2016, his manager texted him asking for a medical certificate for his injured thumb. To this request, Mr Higgins sent a series of explicit images.
Firstly, he sent his manager a picture of a penis, to which the manager replied “great dick pic.” Thinking his manager found the pic funny, Mr Higgins then sent him a photo of a bandaged thumb next a penis. Then another of a penis caught in a bike-like chain. The manager then contacted Coles’ HR department to report the explicit pictures. Mr Higgins was subsequently placed on suspension before being summarily dismissed for serious misconduct.
Fair Work Commission delivers judgement
Mr Higgins argued to the Fair Work Commission that there was no valid reason for his dismissal. And that he was not adequately informed about the reasons for it or given the chance to respond. Mr Higgins said that he considered his manager a friend and that he often texted him. He also claimed that it was normal for employees of Toowong Coles to have sexually explicit discussions. Mr Higgins claimed that a female coworker had once referred to wearing a “strap on dildo” and using it on him.
He also said that he had previously sent his manager a phot of a nude man wearing a gold watch. And that the manager replied “That’s a big gold watch buddy.” Despite Mr Higgins’ claims, the manager strongly denied that he was friends with Mr Higgins. The Fair Work Commission accepted that the pictures Mr Higgins sent to his manager did not amount to sexual harassment. However, they were “inconsistent with the requirement … to treat others with dignity, courtesy and respect.” It therefore ruled that his sacking had been fair and reasonable.
Police sergeant fired for performing oral sex in pub
Tasmanian Industrial Commission case T9986 takes us all the way back to 2002 for some truly scandalous behaviour by a police officer. It involved 38-year-old Andrew Gunston, a Tasmania Police sergeant in the small town of Queenstown. On 12 October 2001, Mr Gunston went to the Empire Hotel after finishing a shift. He had dinner and a few drinks, before meeting up with Janet Lay. They played snooker and shared a few drinks, before being seen passionately kissing. According to the Tasmanian Industrial Commission, the duo were under the influence of alcohol although “some way short of being paralytic
At around 1:30am Mr Gunston and Ms Lay shifted to the coffee lounge area of the hotel, which was known by patrons as “the bong room.” They moved to a dark corner of the lounge, where no one could see them other than those using the nearby stairs. It was at this point that Mr Gunston proceeded to perform oral sex on Ms Lay. The duo then headed off to nearby accommodation at around 2am.
Sergeant’s actions catch up with him
Two staff members, however, had witnessed the incident and had notified two on-duty policemen. No official action was taken, but gossip about Mr Gunston’s actions soon spread across Queenstown. Ten days later, Mr Gunston was called to arrest a man. The family members of the man, having heard the rumors about his hotel incident, proceeded to report it to Tasmania Police headquarters in Hobart. This prompted an internal investigation and ultimately led to Mr Gunston’s dismissal on 17 December 2001.
Sergeant gets job back
Mr Gunston felt that he had been unfairly fired. He admitted to the Tasmanian Industrial Commission that the incident “was not my finest hour.” But he said that he had no recollection of it and claimed that his drinks may have been spiked, causing him to act out of character. Tasmania Police argued that Mr Gunston’s act was actually criminal, being an indecent act in public. However, it did not pursue the criminal charges.
The Tasmanian Industrial Commission ultimately ruled that Mr Gunston’s sacking had been disproportionate. It ordered Tasmania Police to reinstate him and pay lost wages amounting to $30,000. A decade later in 2012, Gunston would win another $124,000 payout after he sued the Hobart Mercury for referring to him as “Sargeant Sleaze” in a series of articles.
Drunk pilot gropes colleagues’ breasts
The unfair dismissal case Steven Gregory v Qantas Airways Limited  involved 53-year-old Qantas pilot Steven Gregory. After arriving in Santiago, Chile from Sydney, he and three other crew members went to a pub together. They all consumed alcoholic beverages and at some point during the night, Mr Gregory disappeared. He returned about half an hour later, with the three others noticing a change in Mr Gregory’s demeanour. They realised that he was heavily intoxicated given that he was being rowdy and was slurring his speech.
That was when Mr Gregory tried to engage a nearby table of women in conversation, before attempting to touch the bottom of one of them. Soon, the three other crew members decided to leave the pub as Mr Gregory’s behaviour was getting out of control. Mr Gregory agreed to leave with them, so they all took a taxi back to their hotel. Seated in the backseat with one of the female crew members, Mr Gregory attempted to massage her breast. The next morning, the captain of the flight decided to stand Mr Gregory down.
Upon returning to Australia, he underwent a drugs test that resulted in a positive result for cannabis. Mr Gregory was subsequently sacked. In his unfair dismissal claim, he argued to the Fair Work Commission that his drink had been spiked. But this argument fell on deaf ears. It was found that Mr Gregory had made the decision to smoke marijuana while he had briefly disappeared from the pub. And that he had been fired for a valid reason.
Key Takeaways to Sacked for behaving badly
Our team at A Whole New Approach today help workers in every Australian state and territory take action via the Fair Work Commission. We are not lawyers. AWNA are the nations leading workplace representatives and commentators. We are proud of our staff and the outcomes we get for our clients. If you have been unfairly sacked, or faced discrimination or sexual harassment, call us today. Over the last 30 years we have successfully assisted more than 16,000 employees in seeking justice through the Fair Work Commission.
Contact us today at 1800 333 666 for a free and confidential conversation about your specific situation.