Unfair Dismissal - Don't use the F Word

In a recent and very interesting case before the Fair Work Commission, an employee was found to have been unfairly dismissed when her employer told her to F- Off.

The Commission ruled that Ms Reid, a book-keeper, was unfairly dismissed when the chief executive of the company she worked for, Mr Gamble, told her “just F- off and get out”. This followed a heated verbal exchange between the pair. During the hearing before the Fair Work Commission Reid said she left as she was frightened by Gamble’s “aggressive manner”. Gamble however told the commission that Reid told him she had “had enough of this shit” and “I’m leaving”.

The Fair Work Commission needed to determine whether the employee had resigned or was dismissed.

 Reid said Gamble left a phone message for her the following day asking her to come in to the office to “finalise things”, which she did. She also told the Commission that Gamble considered her termination to be by “mutual agreement”, a fact she disputed.

The Commission found that Reid did not resign her position but was dismissed, saying “where an employer tells an employee to ‘F-off’ and then does not take any action to explain or withdraw that expression, it constitutes a direction to the employee to leave the workplace”.

The Commission also highlighted that Gamble hadn’t mentioned his reasons for terminating Reid’ employment, including his concerns that Reid displayed an uncooperative attitude, was doing bookkeeping work for another employer and was using the company’s resources to make unauthorised international phone calls.

The Commission determined that Reid’ employer should compensate her with eight weeks pay as she was not given “a fair go all round”. Re-instatement wasn’t appropriate in this case as the relationship between the pair had broken down.

End Note

It is important for employer’s to understand that the intention or state of mind of the employer at the time isn’t the only factor the Commission takes into account when deciding if an employee has been unfairly dismissed. Even if Gamble did not mean for Reid to be dismissed when he told her to F-Off, certainly Reid and the Commission thought otherwise. It pays to watch your “P’s and Q’s”; or in the case of Mr Gamble, his “F’s and O’s”.  

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