A Bluescope Steel worker who was sacked for allegedly defecating in a staff shower and taking unauthorised absences from work has lost his unfair dismissal claim.
Although the Fair Work Commission found there was no evidence that the man was responsible for the shower incident, it did find the man’s timekeeping was “appalling”, ruling that he deliberately and systematically left the Port Kembla Steelworks without authorisation during his 12 hour shift, sometimes for up to six hours at a time.
The worker was summarily dismissed by the company for “inappropriate and socially unacceptable behaviour and unacceptable timekeeping”.
The shower incident
Bluescope initially accused the worker of soiling a staff shower on the afternoon of Monday 5 June 2017 – a claim he strenuously denied.
“[The worker] claims that whilst he was showering he noticed that the drain was blocked and that ‘floaty stuff’ started coming out of the drain,” Fair Work Commissioner Bernie Riordan said.
“[The worker] claims that he tried to push the floating material back down the drain with his hands and used his feet to act like a plunger. I note that [he] wears rubber thongs when he showers. [He] allegedly stated … that it looked like faeces. When leaving the shower block with his colleague, [he] is claimed to have said to his colleagues ‘look at this shit’.”
The man’s supervisor, operations manager Victoria Collins, told the Commission that she had formed the view that he had defecated in the shower because it was clean before he had entered the area, and that he had failed to report the incident.
Unauthorised absences ‘serious misconduct’
While Commissioner Riordan was happy to dismiss the shower allegations, he found the worker’s unauthorised absences reason enough for him to be sacked.
The Commissioner found the worker had “deliberately and systematically left the Steelworks, without authorisation on the overwhelming majority of occasions, to conduct his own personal affairs”, including to assist with his home renovations.
“Not only is such behaviour fraudulent, but it creates serious safety issues for [his] work colleagues who were unaware of his non-attendance,” he said.
“In a hazardous work location like the coke plant, I find [his] actions in deliberately contravening the ‘Leaving Work Early Policy’ falls within the boundaries of serious misconduct.
“I am satisfied that [his] summary dismissal was an appropriate and proportionate penalty for his conduct. [The] termination was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable.”
Worker did not have ‘much of a case’
Miles Heffernan, Litigation Director at Industrial Relations Claims, says in this instance, the worker didn’t have much of a case.
“While the employer made much of the shower shitting, their case was made much stronger by the worker’s unauthorised absences,” he said.
“If you leave work without permission, and you get busted, expect to lose your job.”
If you have been unfairly dismissed from employment, you may be entitled to compensation.
But you only have 21 days to make a claim.
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