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A payout of $90K was awarded after an employee was sacked following a drunken night out

The ex-employee was on a Melbourne business trip for a training conference when he consumed up to 17 drinks then arrived at the conference intoxicated
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A payout of $90K was awarded after an employee was sacked following a drunken night out

5 April 2016

Following a staff dinner, the former insurance broker proceeded to a drinks session at a local hotel that continued into the early hours of the morning, with many of the drinks having been paid for using the company card.

Following his night out, he returned to his hotel where he subsequently passed out in the hallway, then woke up around 7am and went to his room. He turned up to the conference at 9am in an intoxicated manner, where his job was to be an ‘observer’ sitting in the back of the room.

Conference attendees noted that the insurance broker was talking loudly, making animal noises while showing photos from a recent trip to Africa, and throwing a lolly at other attendees.

The NSW District Court granted a $300,000 payout to the broker on the basis that if he hadn’t been sacked following the conference incident, he would have had the chance to continue being employed by the brokerage for a further 14½ months.

The NSW Court of Appeal reversed this decision and reduced it to a six-month payout totalling $90,000, determining that his dismissal could have been lawful had he been given six months’ notice, and that his immediate dismissal was not the appropriate course of action to take.

The appeals court said that despite “serious misconduct” being committed, the Sydney brokerage was wrong to immediately sack the employee as his behaviour had not taken place in “serious circumstances”.

“To attend at the conference in an intoxicated state was itself a serious misconduct. To behave in an inappropriate way by, for example, talking loudly, attending smelling of alcohol, making animal noises and throwing a lolly was serious because it resulted from his intoxication,” Justice Robert Macfarlan of the NSW Court of Appeal said.

Justice Macfarlan continued, saying that “something more” was required beyond serious misconduct to justify immediate sacking.

It was further noted that prior to the incident, the broker had many years of good service with the company. He also apologised for the incident.

Sourced via the Australian Financial Review

Just because you believe you’re taking the appropriate action when letting an employee go, doesn’t mean the Fair Work Ombudsman will agree if you find yourself being hauled in front of them to defend the dismissal.

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You could think you’re doing everything right, but it may still not be enough to avoid a workplace claim by the employee.


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