Lawful termination of employee abusive and aggressive towards co-workers

Lawful termination of employee abusive and aggressive towards co-workers

The Fair Work Commission has upheld the summary dismissal of a long-term production worker who was involved in several incidents where he was abusive and aggressive towards co-workers without any apparent provocation.

The worker had been engaged by Fletcher Insulation (Fletchers) for 38 years until his termination on 7 June 2021. He had previously been warned in November 2020 by his supervisor for using loud and offensive language towards a co-worker as well as touching the co-worker’s chest with his finger.

During the course of Friday 30 April 2021, the worker was involved in three incidents: abusing a co-worker on the telephone, being abusive and aggressive to a co-worker, which was witnessed, and later abusing and engaging in aggressive conduct towards two other co-workers. The fourth incident involved the employee breaching confidentiality by approaching one of the witnesses to discuss the investigation, despite being told not to do so.

Fletcher’s provided the employee with a suspension letter at a meeting on the following Tuesday, 4 May, and stood him down whilst an investigation of the alleged incidents took place.

Fletcher’s formed the view that the employee had committed the offences, was aware of the company’s policies on harassment and bullying, and further showed no remorse for his behaviour. Testimony from the complainants and witnesses was consistent, and two of the incidents involving alleged aggression were supported by CCTV footage.

Consequently, he was terminated at a meeting on 7 June 2021.

Deputy President Reg Hamilton determined that the decision to dismiss the employee was fully justified. As he commented,

“I have found that there are three or four valid reasons for termination within s.387(a) of the Act, depending on how each incident is characterised…The applicant was orally abusive to (Mr A) on the telephone and face to face with (Mr E) and (Mr A) on 30 April 2021. This included repeated use of the f… word, and a confrontational and aggressive manner. Secondly, the applicant did in fact grab the arm of (Mr A), and made a fist in a threatening manner, and did say something to the effect of settling the matter outside. This was suggestive of some form of physical threat”.  

As the Deputy President summarised,

“The lack of remorse and other factors outweigh the length of service and other matters. In my view, the employer had to act to protect employees such as (Mr A), who should not have to deal with such aggressive and confronting and disrespectful conduct at work, conduct which is contrary to employer policy directions. The employer is entitled to put a stop to such conduct and put a stop to it by termination of employment, in the absence of sufficient remorse, to ensure that such conduct will not occur again…”.

Consequently, the Deputy President dismissed the application.

BE v Fletcher Insulation (U2021/5237) 27 September 2021

For questions about misconduct, investigations, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 925 529, 0417 622 178 or via email to dean.cameron@workforceadvisory.com.au

Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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