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“Where is your facial hair policy?” Dispute over beard ends in dismissal, court and payout

A court has found that a driver sacked in part for coming to work with a half-shaved beard was unfairly dismissed and awarded him $6000 compensation.

The transport company’s director told the Fair Work Commission that he was left with no alternative but to sack the driver, alleging he was disrespectful to management, antagonistic to colleagues and "having a negative impact on his business".

 

Among the issues cited by the director was that the driver was “coming to work with a half-shaved beard when delivering product to customers". This showed the driver was showing a "disregard for the business that employed him".

When the issue was raised with the employee, his only response was, "Where is your facial hair policy?"

On another occasion, the director spoke to the driver about his interaction with other employees.

"I'm here to make money, not friends," the driver allegedly said.

The director also cited an incident in his office where the driver showed him a hole in his trousers.
The driver said he was being humorous and not trying to offend but the director maintained he was being disrespectful.

The final incident leading to the sacking was the driver allegedly failing to be at work on 1 November last year. However, it was later accepted that another driver who was supposed to contact him about starting work on that night failed to do so.

In upholding the unfair dismissal claim, the FWC found that the driver was "not clearly directed by [the director] not to wear his facial hair in the manner that he had been".

“It appears [the director] indicated to [the driver] he did not like it, but it was incumbent on him to direct [the driver] to do something, and for [the driver] not to do it, in order for [the director] to then rely on that matter as a basis for termination," the Commissioner said.

He found the director also did not provide a reason to driver for his sacking. He ordered the company pay $6016 in compensation to the driver.

iHR believes it is preferable to seek to mediate before a situation gets to the dismissal stage, with the time and monetary cost this involves.

Workplace mediation is a dispute resolution technique used to assist parties to resolve issues and achieve an ongoing workable relationship. Mediation is a confidential and structured process in which an independent and impartial third party facilitates discussion between the various individuals involved. Mediation is more cost effective and a less time consuming process than formal proceedings and in many cases can resolve disputes before parties feel the need to consider litigation.

 

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