The Fair Work Commission has found that an employee was unfairly dismissed after his employer condoned his abusive conduct for too long and mismanaged complaints about him. Unfortunately, this case is a common example of a small family business being caught out for not handling serious matters with the appropriate formality and procedure.

In this case, the employee a truck driver, employed for four years, had a history of abusive behaviours towards his colleagues and had previously caused another employee to resign. After swearing at a colleague and a director he was asked several times to leave the workplace and refused. The employer claimed he posed a serious threat to health and safety and dismissed him on the spot.

The dismissed employee brought the case to the Fair Work Commission claiming unfair dismissal. He made claims, later unsubstantiated, that he was regularly bullied and ‘finally snapped’ the day he was dismissed.

The Fair Work Commission decided the employee was solely responsible for his misconduct which would have been a valid reason for dismissal. However, the employer did not use proper procedures for managing poor behaviour at work and only acted when the employee was targeting a director. When an employee previously complained about the dismissed truck driver’s behaviour including being verbally abused, manhandled and threatened with violence, the employer told him to simply avoid contact with the dismissed employee.

Although the employee’s misconduct was a valid reason for dismissal, the employer failed to provide procedural fairness when terminating employment resulting in an unfair dismissal. The employee was not notified the reason for dismissal until it occurred and was not given an opportunity to respond to it.

This case highlights how important it is for small businesses to handle HR matters professionally. In this case matters and disputes arose that were beyond the capabilities of the managers to handle effectively. The use of external HR workplace advisors would have assisted the employer to manage and improve the welfare of their employees.

ProcessWorx offers external HR consulting and comprehensive packages to assist small businesses to manage their HR and employees correctly. If you require assistance with employee management or dismissal contact ProcessWorx on (08) 9316 9896 or enquiries@processworx.com.au

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