Most Australian workers would have potentially lost their jobs if getting drunk once at an after-work function was grounds for being sacked, a Fair Work Commissioner says.
Commissioner Ian Cambridge ordered the reinstatement of a female project administrator who was sacked by electrical contractor Ryan Wilks for serious misconduct after getting drunk at a post-work function at the Sydney Opera House last year.
The woman admitted getting drunk and vomiting on the floor of the Opera bar. She was helped out of the bar by her friends and into a taxi.
But she denied sexually propositioning an Opera House employee and making insulting or disparaging remarks about Opera House staff and Ryan Wilks employees.
Commissioner Cambridge said the employer conducted an incomplete and truncated investigation into the misconduct claims, and erroneously concluded that the employees had engaged in all aspects of the alleged misconduct.
He said a single act of drunkenness at an after work function would not represent misconduct that provided a sound, defensible and well-founded reason for dismissal.
“Frankly, if one act of inoffensive drunkenness at an after work function provided valid reason for dismissal, I suspect that the majority of Australian workers may have potentially lost their jobs,’’ he said.
He said the conduct of employees outside of work hours had increasingly become the subject of potential scrutiny by employers.
“In this instance the applicant accepted that her conduct at the farewell drinks function had the potential to reflect upon the business of the employer, and she was genuinely remorseful and embarrassed by her misconduct during her period of drunkenness,’’ he said.
“The employer was understandably concerned that the misconduct of the applicant at the farewell drinks function might have some impact upon the renewal of its contract with its major client, the Sydney Opera House.
“Consequently, in this instance, there would seem to be sound basis for the employer to have implemented some form of disciplinary action in respect to the misconduct of the applicant associated with her drunkenness.”
Ordering the woman’s reinstatement, he said a separate hearing would be convened to consider the amount of lost pay she should be compensated.
“I have arrived at the conclusion that a significant injustice would occur if the applicant was not provided with the remedy that she has sought,’’ he said.
“Erroneous findings of serious misconduct were made against the applicant, particularly including that she had made disparaging and insulting comments, and sexually propositioned a work colleague. The applicant is entitled to a remedy that unequivocally expunges these findings. Therefore, I have concluded that reinstatement would be appropriate in all of the circumstances of this case.”
Originally published via The Australian