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Dismissed for ignoring safety directives, driving at co-workers and harassing text messages

The FWC ruled that he was validly dismissed.
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Dismissed for ignoring safety directives, driving at co-workers and harassing text messages

Dismissed for ignoring safety directives, driving at co-workers and harassing text messages

24 September 2020

By Mike Toten

A council worker who placed the safety and welfare of himself and co-workers at risk with several incidents on the same day was validly dismissed. The incidents included refusing to wear safety boots when directed to, abusing other employees, driving a Council truck at his team leader, and then harassing the HR Manager with multiple text messages and phone calls. The employee had a long history of antagonistic conduct towards other employees and the Fair Work Commission (FWC) rejected the defence offered by his union that he had a personality disorder.

Facts of case

The employee was a cleansing team worker, employed for many years. On the day in question, the following incidents occurred:
  • When asked to put on safety boots, he refused, insisting he didn’t need to, until warned there would be consequences.
  • When asked why he had taken bike parts from a Council truck and put them in his own car a couple of weeks earlier, he said he had purchased them but refused to provide any evidence.
  • He approached a supervisor in a very aggressive and antagonistic manner, demanding to be given another employee’s job request details, and refused to accept that the information was confidential.
  • He drove to where his own car was parked and found his team leader also parked there. He sat in a Council truck closely watching the team leader in an intimidating manner, then aggressively drove the truck towards him before braking hard to narrowly avoid him. He then refused to tell the team leader why he was there. The team leader had been off work ever since. A co-worker had told the employee to stop driving dangerously and leave the team leader alone. The FWC viewed dashcam evidence of the incident, which contradicted the employee’s claim that he hadn’t seen the team leader on the road.
  • Over a five-hour period, he made nine phone calls and sent 15 text messages to the HR Manager, ceasing only when she said she was at home with her children. The messages disputed that he had misbehaved, questioned why the team leader was in the location, called the team leader a liar, accused him of wasting time and said he would not listen to him, and accused the HR Manager of mishandling both the current and previous incidents and letting problems fester. He claimed he had made many previous complaints about the team leader, but none were taken seriously. He asked the HR Manager for access to the team leader’s GPS system and claimed that the team leader had been “getting away with” mistreating people for 40 years.

The employee had already received three warnings to improve his conduct and attended two counselling sessions.
After the Council sent him a “show cause” letter, his union replied on his behalf claiming that he had behavioural traits that amounted to a “borderline personality disorder”. This included:
  • compromised ability to recognise the feelings and needs of others
  • “impoverished self-image, excessive self-criticism, feelings of emptiness, and dissociative states when under pressure or stress”.
The response also denied driving dangerously or endangering the team leader and accused the Council of failing to take action in response to his many previous complaints. He was afraid that the team manager was going to damage his own car on the day in question and claimed that he stopped texting the HR Manager as soon as she asked him to stop. He claimed that managers had gotten away with similar conduct to his own in the past and that he “just needed some sympathy”.
However, The Council dismissed him for misconduct that included not following lawful and reasonable orders and harassing other employees.


The FWC found that he had been dismissed for a valid reason and the Council had done it with procedural fairness. The employee had set out on a “path of self-destruction” that could not be excused. His conduct had a severe impact on the team leader (who was unlikely to return to work), the text messages to the HR Manager were disrespectful and intended to harass her.
The FWC concluded that the Council had given him support for many years but he had not repaid it. It described his conduct as “reckless, rude, harassing, intemperate and entirely inappropriate”.

Read the judgment

Stamoglou v Banyule City Council [2020] FWC 4722, 15 September 2020

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