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Employment Relationships Gone Sour

Employment Law

Ever experienced an employee belittling or denigrating you? Ever questioned whether they can be sacked for it?

Unfortunately there is no hard and fast rule on when sacking an employee for swearing at you is warranted, however recent case law suggests at least in some circumstances, this is a reasonable response.

The recent Fair Work Commission case, Louise Nesbitt v Dragon Mountain Gold Limited [2015] looked at whether an employer was justified in terminating his employee who had called him a “complete dick” in a text message which was mistakenly sent to him.

The Fair Work Commission said to justify the dismissal the employer has to be satisfied “on reasonable grounds” that the conduct was serious enough to “justify immediate dismissal.”

Ultimately, the Commissioner held the dismissal was justified and not unfair. Whilst the employee attempted to explain away the text, the employer’s interpretation of the explanation as insincere was justified.

The case provides us with helpful authority that at least in some instances it is appropriate to terminate an employee who uses offensive language to denigrate and/or belittle their boss.

Employer’s need to be careful because each matter will turn on its own facts.  The business should seek legal advice before any termination to ensure it is valid in the circumstances and minimise the risk to the business.  If we can help in any way, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Employment Team.