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TAFE Teacher Sacked For Kissing Student Wins Unfair Dismissal And Job Back

TAFE teacher sacked for kissing student wins unfair dismissal and job back

A TAFE teacher sacked for kissing a mature-aged student on a field trip has won his job back.

Tasmania’s Industrial Commission described his behaviour as “foolish” but not “wilful”.

It therefore found the dismissal unfair and consequently ordered TasTAFE to re-instate the teacher. 

TAFE teacher sacked for kissing student

Shane Pinner worked for TasTAFE since 1999 as a tourism guide teacher working with mature-aged students in Devonport.

However, in July 2018, TasTAFE terminated his employment after nine students collectively complained to management.

The students claimed Pinner acted inappropriately towards a female mature-aged student on a field trip to Cradle Mountain in October 2017.

During the trip, they claimed Pinner tucked the student’s hair from either side of her face into her raincoat, standing behind her and resting his hands on her shoulders.

He then kissed her on the lips for about three seconds, holding her face to do so.

Following an investigation, TasTAFE’s chief executive Jenny Dodd found Pinner had abused the teacher-student relationship.

In addition, she said he breached the organisation’s Code of Conduct by failing to treat an individual student and a group of students with respect and without harassment, victimisation or discrimination.

A ‘stupid, stupid, stupid moment’

Pinner subsequently took his case to the Tasmanian Industrial Commission claiming unfair dismissal.

He admitted kissing the student when a photograph was taken, but argued he had been “hamming it up”.

He described his behaviour as a “brain fade” and a “stupid, stupid, stupid moment.”

Deputy President Neroli Ellis found all three incidents took place, however, was not satisfied that the hair-tucking or shoulder touching incidents constituted a breach of the Code of Conduct.

She concluded that Pinner did not intend to disrespect, harass or victimise any of the students when he tucked the student’s hair into her hood.

Kissing breached Code of Conduct

Ms Ellis did find the kiss breached the Code of Conduct, and breached TasTAFE guidelines that state that under no circumstances should a teacher kiss a student.

However, she accepted Pinner’s evidence that there had been no sexual intent nor harassment, victimisation or discrimination.

“There is a lack of evidence from the respondent to demonstrate that Mr Pinner intended the kiss to be sexual in nature.

“I accept Mr Pinner’s sworn evidence that this was not of a sexual nature.

“The conduct was not deliberate or wilful, rather foolish and stupid.”

Ms Ellis also took into account Pinner’s remorse, apologies, “unblemished work record” of more than 17 years, and determined the dismissal unfair and disproportionate.

She consequently ordered TasTAFE to reinstate Pinner.

TasTAFE dismissed teacher for breaching the organisation’s Code of Conduct.

Teacher lucky to get job back

Miles Heffernan from IR Claims says Pinner is lucky to get his job back.

“Once you start kissing work colleagues or students without their consent, and especially in the context of a teacher-student relationship, you are risking your job, your career, and possibly even criminal charges,” he said.

“Sexual harassment is serious, therefore workers and teachers should never ever touch a colleague or student – especially with their lips.”




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