Employee Reinstated after Telling his Manager to get F***ed

A Sydney Trains employee was reinstated after telling his manager to “get f***ed”. The employee expressed concerns about the health and safety of the workplace, including the toxic culture and was ignored by management. After the outburst, the employee was suspended for four months before he was dismissed. The Fair Work Commission decided the dismissal was unfair and ordered reinstatement.

The case

The employee, a health and safety officer for Sydney Trains tried to raise the issue of psychological safety at work repeatedly but was consistently shut down and ignored by managers. The employee emailed in response to an employee survey complaining of the toxic workplace culture at Sydney Trains. This email was ignored, and the employee was placed on a personal conduct improvement plan as a result.

Later at a meeting to discuss new technology the employee again expressed concerns about safety at Sydney Trains. When his manager disagreed the employee told him to “get f***ed” and walked out. His manager followed him outside and the employee said, “I’m trying hard not to punch you in the face, you need to step away from me.” But then immediately apologised.

After this incident, the employee was suspended for four months and then dismissed on the grounds he had threatened the manager and breached Sydney Trains Code of Conduct. The employee had been with the company for 22 years with an untarnished record.

The Decision

The Fair Work Commission found the employee’s dismissal to be unfair and ordered reinstatement. Although the employee’s language was inappropriate and would have been a valid reason for dismissal, his comments outside the meeting were not a threat but in an attempt to de-escalate the situation and no physical aggression occurred. The employee showed remorse and apologised for his behaviour, but Sydney Trains left him suspended for an unreasonable amount of time to investigate the incident. The employer should have taken swift action to discipline the employee in another way to restore the relationship between employee and manager.

Sydney Trains had ignored the employee’s valid concerns about safety and workplace culture, which contributed to the eventual outburst. The Fair Work Commission commented that Sydney Trains handling of the event demonstrated the poor workplace culture.

Although using inappropriate language would generally result in dismissal, in this case, the context of the outburst was evidence of the toxic workplace culture and provocation from the manager.

ProcessWorx Advisors have experience terminating employees and dealing with unfair dismissal claims. If you have queries about anything above and want advice personalised to your business, contact us on (08) 9316 9896, or email enquiries@processworx.com.au

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Written by Danielle McNamee

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Marisa Ross

HR Advisor

Marisa is an experienced and motivated HR professional with a strong HR generalist and business operations background with a focus on employee relations, performance management, leadership training & development, workers compensation & injury management, and employee retention. Marisa holds a Bachelor of Human Resource Management and a Bachelor of Behavioural Science with a minor in Counselling. Having worked in a variety of industries from SMEs to large blue-chip organisations, Marisa is passionate about enriching employee experience, employee retention, and building leadership capability in people management.

Aimee Grigson

Aimee Grigson

WHS Advisor

Aimee has a strong understanding of Workplace Health and Safety Legislation and standards and has extensive HSEQ experience in a number of industries. Aimee has a great ability to engage across all levels of organisation, including field teams, leadership and external stakeholders. Aimee ensures Health and Safety Management Systems are compliant to legislation, effectively implemented and understood by all. Aimee has a Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety and qualifications in auditing and incident investigations. Aimee is passionate about coaching and developing small businesses towards a positive safety culture.