The Fair Work Commission has ruled that a catering assistant in an aged care facility was justifiably dismissed for coughing in a nurse’s face while taking his temperature as a part of safety procedures.

The part-time worker had been employed as a catering contractor since 2013 and worked at the Uniting Wesley Heights facility which housed many high-risk aged care residents. He was dismissed for serious misconduct in April after he coughed deliberately in a registered nurse’s face because he was annoyed, he had to have his temperature taken before work. The nurse reported the employee made no effort to cover or hold back his cough and did not apologise afterwards. She told him not to cough in her face and felt angered by the incident.

The employee had received training regarding the need for new strict hygiene measures while at work, including cough etiquette, physical distancing, and sanitising.  The employee did not refute that he took part in the training. The employee claimed that coughing was not a justifiable reason for dismissal and argued it was because he was on light duties due to workers compensation injury. The employee did refute that his conduct was deliberate in nature and alleged he did not have the ability to prevent the coughing.

The Fair Work Commission decided that because the worker did not provide a plausible explanation as to why he did not attempt to cover his cough, and his failure to recognise the seriousness of his actions or apologise, the incident’s severity was raised. The Fair Work Commission agreed with the employer that this behaviour is unacceptable in a high-risk environment posing a serious health risk to the residents and employees at Uniting Wesley Heights. Therefore this dismissal was justified.

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Written by Danielle McNamee

Dismissed for coughing in a nurse’s face

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