Can bad behaviour outside work hours affect your employment?

In a case of workplace dismissal, we look at how bad behaviour out of the workplace, by employees may affect their employment. As highlighted in the following case, inappropriate behaviour and conduct outside work hours has severe consequences and can constitute a dismissal, if proven and valid by a court of law.

Case Note: Rogers v Allianz Insurance Australia T/A Club Marine Insurance [2017] FWC 537

Facts

Mr Rogers was dismissed from his job as the National Business Development Manager for the boating insurance branch of Allianz Australia Services Pty Ltd.

There were two reasons for his dismissal. The first reason was on the grounds of misconduct at a company team building event. It was said that Mr Rogers became aggressive towards a female colleague to the point that it made other colleagues feel uncomfortable. He was also said to have made an inappropriate comment to another female colleague while in a taxi after the company team building event had ended. The comment left her feeling upset and offended. Mr Rogers admitted to making the comment.

The second reason for his dismissal was that he was said to have misused his position with the company to obtain personal benefit, for example in the form of business class airfares and accommodation for overseas holidays.

Issue

The issue was whether or not the reasons for Mr Rogers’ dismissal were fair.

Judgment

Commissioner Roe found that Mr Rogers’ dismissal was fair.

It was found that Mr Rogers’ aggressive behaviour was not sufficiently serious that it could form a valid reason for dismissal. However, the inappropriate comment and the obtainment of personal benefit without the prior approval of management were.

In his defense, Mr Rogers raised the issue that it took place outside the normal place and hours of work. However, Commissioner Roe found that an employee may be dismissed for conduct outside of work where there is a sufficient connection to his or her employment and the conduct is of such gravity as to warrant dismissal.

The court may consider among other things the damage to the relationship between the employer and employee and the damage to the employer’s interests.[1]

The reasons for Mr Roger’s dismissal were found to be fair as there was a connection between the inappropriate comment and his employment. He attended the company team building event in his role as an employee and the taxi ride afterwards where he made the inappropriate comment was necessary to attend the event. In addition, Mr Rogers’ conduct was thought likely to seriously damage the female employee’s relationship with Allianz. The inappropriate comment affected her ability to work effectively in cooperation with Mr Rogers notwithstanding her professionalism. Allianz’s interests were thus damaged as a consequence. Therefore, the reasons for Mr Roger’s dismissal were found to be fair.

Lessons Learned

This case highlights that employees may be dismissed for serious conduct committed outside of work where there is a sufficient connection to their employment.

A employee must be vigilant and know that bad behaviour outside work hours can sometimes result in a dismissal. 

For more information regarding grounds for dismissal or termination of employment

Please contact our client engagement Team or call us on (07) 3252 0011 to book an appointment with one of our specialist Employment Lawyers today.

Written by Eduardo Cruz and Brooke Nickerson.

Footnote

[1] B Rose v Telstra Corporation Limited (1998) Q9292.

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