Unfair dismissals: 4 shocking examples at Xmas parties.
Work Christmas parties have produced many very interesting unfair dismissal cases over the years. And it’s not surprising, given the amount of alcohol generally involved and the air of inhibition many employees feel. In this article, we share four work Christmas party unfair dismissal cases that involved employees who well and truly earned a place on Santa’s naughty list. But be warned, some of the details of these cases are of a graphic nature. Unfair dismissals: 4 shocking examples at Xmas parties is what to stay away from. Years of hard work ruined in a instant. At a Whole New Approach we see this every year.
Employee dismissed for urinating on diners at work Christmas party
In the unfair dismissal case Paul Brown v Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty Ltd , an employee conducted himself in a very unbecoming manner at his work Christmas party, to say the least. At the party, Aristocrat employee Paul Brown proceeded to get exceedingly drunk. When the work Christmas party had ended, Mr Brown and colleagues remained at the venue, where they continued to drink on the balcony.
Below the balcony was an outdoor dining area of a restaurant, where diners were enjoying their evening meal unbeknownst to what was about to happen. Mr Brown, for some unknown reason, decided to urinate over the balcony’s edge and onto the diners. Nobody tried to stop him, one can only assume employees thought it was funny (or in shock) at the time.
Employee is dismissed, makes unfair dismissal claim
Mr Brown’s unfair dismissal case was heard by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (the predecessor to the Fair Work Commission). He argued that his misconduct was not related to his work, given that it took place after the work Christmas party. However, the Commission disagreed. It found that the misconduct took place at a work social function, which was organized and funded by Aristocrat. What’s more, Aristocrat had prior to the party outlined guidelines for appropriate behaviour at the party to all staff.
The Commission found that there was a sufficient connection between Mr Brown’s serious misconduct and his employment. It therefore rejected his unfair dismissal claim.
Policeman dismissed after opening bottle with genital piercing at work Christmas party
The unfair dismissal case Commissioner of Police vs Lawrance  involved a NSW Police officer with a very peculiar party trick. At his work Christmas party at a Chinese restaurant in Yamba, NSW, Sergeant Andrew Lawrance decided to show his colleagues just how good he was at opening beer bottles.
On at least two occasions the Sergeant and acting supervisor took out his penis, which was pierced with a ring. Attached to the ring was a bottle opener. What Sergeant Lawrance did next was what he later described during his unfair dismissal hearing as his “party trick.”
Sergeant Lawrance, before an audience of sixteen fellow officers and their wives, opened a bottle of beer with his genital piercing. The men and women at Tommy’s Chinese Restaurant, however, had egged Sergeant Lawrance on to perform his trick. And one woman had even asked to see his piercing. It almost goes without saying that all present were under the influence of alcohol.
Sergeant is dismissed for serious misconduct
Of course, after the party word got out about his party trick and it soon came to the attention of NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione – the top-ranking police officer in the state. Commissioner Scipione believed Sergeant Lawrance’s behaviour was made worse as he was one of the most senior officers at the work Christmas party.
The Commissioner decided to dismiss the Sergeant for serious misconduct. Sergeant Lawrance then made an unfair dismissal application and was forced to take a job at a bottle shop, believe it or not. He argued that his dismissal was “harsh,” and the NSW Industrial Relations Commission agreed. The NSW Industrial Relations Commission (NSWIRC) found that while Sergeant Lawrance’s misconduct was serious, it didn’t warrant a dismissal. As reinstatement was considered impracticable, the Commission ordered NSW Police to reinstate him as a Senior Constable.
Telstra worker dismissed for having sex in front of colleagues after work Christmas party
The unfair dismissal case Carlie Streeter v Telstra Corporation Ltd  involved some particularly steamy details. After the Telstra work Christmas party, retail shop officer Carlie Streeter and a number of her colleagues proceeded to a private hotel room. There, Ms Streeter had sex with a male colleague while three of her female colleagues were in close proximity. She also later remained in the bathroom with two male colleagues while one of her female colleagues used the toilet.
Telstra subsequently dismissed Ms Streeter for serious misconduct. The company stated that by having sex in their presence, Ms Streeter had sexually harassed her colleagues. Telstra also claimed that when asked questions during a workplace investigation, she had been dishonest.
Employee makes an unfair dismissal claim
Ms Streeter’s unfair dismissal case was heard by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. Commissioner Hamberger found that there was a “sufficient nexus” between her conduct and her employment. He stated that there was “potential vicarious liability” for Telstra despite Ms Streeter’s conduct taking place in a private hotel room after the work Christmas party.
However, the Commissioner found that Telstra had “greatly exaggerated the seriousness of Ms Streeter’s misconduct.” He ruled that her conduct did not constitute sexual harassment under any federal or state law. The Commissioner stated that “the less direct the relationship with the workplace, the more serious the misconduct would need to be to justify termination of employment.” He ordered Telstra to reinstate Ms Streeter to a different Telstra store and pay her her lost wages.
Telstra appeals the unfair dismissal decision
Unsatisfied with the decision, Telstra made an appeal with the Full Bench of the Commission. The Full Bench found that Ms Streeter had been dishonest during the company’s investigation into the incident. It therefore deemed that Telstra had fairly dismissed Ms Streeter.
Employee dismissed for pushing colleague into pool at work Christmas Party
In the unfair dismissal case Damien McDaid v Future Engineering and Communication Pty Ltd , project coordinator Damien McDaid engaged in some very inappropriate drunken behaviour. The misconduct took place at the work Christmas party of Future Engineering, where unlimited alcohol was served at a venue that had a swimming pool. That combination, as you can imagine, often has the potential for disaster.
Prior to the party, Mr McDaid had behaved in a “domineering and aggressive manner towards others,” according to his colleagues. And this behaviour continued at the party, where Mr McDaid began haranguing a senior manager. Tensions began to escalate as Mr McDaid began poking and pushing the manager in the chest while shouting “Listen to me, listen to me.” Then, as his anger boiled over, Mr McDaid pushed the fully clothed manager into the pool.
Following the incident, another senior manager asked Mr Davies to leave the work Christmas party, but he refused to do so. A heated argument then ensued between the duo, which came to a head when Mr McDaid pushed the manager, who staggered backwards and crashed into the front gate of the venue. Mr McDaid then offered the manager a hand up, and once he was back on his feet, the duo exchanged punches. The manager punched Mr McDaid in the head, injuring his hand, and at that point the scuffle ended. Mr McDaid then left the work Christmas party.
Employee is dismissed for serious misconduct, makes unfair dismissal claim
Future Engineering conducted a workplace investigation into the incident. And two months after the party, Mr McDaid was summoned to a meeting in which he was dismissed for serious misconduct.
Mr McDaid, who maintained that he had no memory of the incident nor the party, subsequently made an unfair dismissal claim with the Fair Work Commission. And at his hearing, the Fair Work Commission found that there were three reasons to support his dismissal. Namely that Mr McDaid had:
- Acted aggressively, both physically and verbally, prior to pushing the manager into the pool.
- Refused to leave the work Christmas party venue when told to do so by another senior manager.
- Started a fight with the senior manager by pushing him into the gate and injuring him.
The Fair Work Commission also found that Future Engineering had followed correct procedure in investigating and dismissing Mr McDaid. It had notified him of the reasons for his dismissal prior to doing so. And it had also allowed him ample opportunities to respond to the reasons. For these reasons, the Fair Work Commission ultimately ruled that Mr McDaid’s behaviour amounted to serious misconduct, and that his dismissal had been fair.
Conclusion to: Unfair dismissals: 4 shocking examples at Xmas parties.
Have you been unfairly dismissed?
While some of the previous cases clearly justified dismissal, it many cases, employers can get it wrong. How should in many cases once only misbehavior in many instances, after hours be treated? Its complex. If you have been unfairly dismissed, A Whole New Approach can help you make an unfair dismissal claim with the Fair Work Commission.
Our expert team can help you understand exactly what you need to do to make your claim a success. This is because we have over 20 years’ experience in making claims for over 16,000 Australian workers in every state and territory. Forced to resign, workplace investigations, all matters or concerns relating to the workplace call us now.
Call us today on 1800 333 666 for a free and confidential consultation.
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