In a recent matter before the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, an employer has been fined and ordered to seek professional help to deal with his anger management issues.
An employee (represented by the Transport Workers’ Union) approached the employer and informed him that he could not work the following Monday as he had to take his daughter to a doctor’s appointment. The employer rejected the employee’s request for leave and told the employee that he expected him to attend work on Monday.
That Sunday, the employer sent the employee a text message with the employee’s tasks for that Monday. The employee replied that he could not attend work on the Monday because of his carer’s responsibilities. The employer then replied that if the employee did not attend for work, his employment would be terminated.
On Monday, the employee did not attend for work. The employer terminated the employee summarily. Following the termination, the employer’s conduct included making continued threats of violence against the employee (and the Union representative) and doing ‘burnouts’ outside the employee’s home. The threats of violence were admitted by the employer and, while the burnouts allegation was denied, the employer agreed that it was his vehicle seen outside the employee’s home.
At the hearing, the Court was so concerned about the employer’s behaviour that he ordered the employer to undertake a ‘course of treatment by a counsellor or psychologist’. The employer subsequently offered up an undertaking not to ‘denigrate’ the employee any further, and this was accepted. The Court awarded $10,000 in compensation to the employee for non-economic loss.
The Court also considered the need for a penalty to be imposed on the employer, the maximum available being $10,200. The Court determined that a penalty of $10,000 would be appropriate in the circumstances, citing that the employer’s conduct was ‘blatant and disgraceful’.
Lisa Aitken is an accredited specialist in workplace relations law and the principal of Aitken Legal, a law firm specialising in employment law for employers. www.aitkenlegal.com.au. The information in this column is intended as a guide only. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.