Manager sacked for safety tip-off wins $470K adverse action claim

By Portner Press on June 28th, 2019
  1. Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination
  2. Discrimination in the workplace

Even though regulators say they won’t reveal the source of an anonymous complaint, does that really provide any protection?

When a general manager at a glass manufacturing company became concerned about the new owners’ dangerous work practices, including one event which resulted in a near-fatal accident, he complained to his employer to no avail.

The worker then reported the incident anonymously to SafeWork NSW.

SafeWork inspectors then visited the company’s premises. During the visit they told the employer, Sunny Glass Pty Ltd, that they had received a tip-off.

This cost the worker his job.

While the name of the informant wasn’t disclosed, it didn’t take long for the employer to put two and two together and realise who it was.

At this point, the general manager was already on personal leave for stress caused by the company’s unsafe work procedures.

When he returned, Sunny Glass summarily dismissed him.

The general manager then took the employer to court.

In the Federal Circuit Court hearing this month, two years after the event, Judge Gregory Egan found that the employer had “denigrated” the worker for exercising a workplace right and had dismissed him “by way of payback with malice”.

Judge Egan ruled that the termination of the worker’s employment was unlawful adverse action in contravention of the Fair Work Act.

He found that the employer had breached the following sections of the Act:

  1. Section 117(1) of the Act, and in turn section 44(1) of the Act, by dismissing the employee without having given written notice.
  1. Section 117(2) of the Act, and in turn section 44(1) of the Act, by dismissing the employee without having given the minimum one week period of notice.
  1. Section 340 of the Act, by taking adverse action against the employee when exercising a workplace right pursuant to s 341(1)(c) of the Act.
  1. Section 323(1) of the Act by failing to pay all of the applicant’s base salary, car allowance, share allotment/transfer and superannuation entitlements.

Judge Egan ordered the employer to pay the general manager more than $470,000 in compensation, damages and pecuniary penalties.

Employers must be careful when taking any disciplinary action, even if it is justified

In chapter D6 Disciplining Workers in the Health & Safety Handbook, we detail the legal risks you can face when taking disciplinary action and how to mitigate them.

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