Divisive, racist allegations lead to FWC hearing in the mismanagement of everyday performance

Success at work requires a team effort. Productivity can be affected if workplace culture is poor, with mishandled issues potentially leading to costly Fair Work Commission (FWC) hearings. This was evident when the FWC recently reinstated a transport company employee who allegedly made remarks of a negative, stereotypical nature towards a co-worker.


In January 2015, the employee made “racist, sectarian and inappropriate” comments to a colleague whilst on duty at a Sydney depot. This instance, and three similar occurrences from the previous year, led to his dismissal. However, when the case was presented to the FWC, the Commissioner criticised the company’s workplace culture and its investigation of the employee’s conduct, indicating that the work site had not evolved from the “old fashioned prejudicial Anglo-Saxon male domains” of the 1970s and 1980s.

“(The company) has a multicultural workforce, but it would appear that the concept of multiculturalism has not evolved at the site. Rather than accepting and encouraging the variety of cultures, beliefs and values of every employee, some employees have taken on a role of intimidation, vilification, and harassment to try and assume some type of supremacy for their faith or culture.“

“(The employee) was under the misconception that he was being funny or was looking for a reaction. In fact, he was just being stupid,” the Commissioner stated, adding that the employee’s dismissal may have only served to exacerbate the situation at the site.

As the employee had not received a formal warning for his ongoing conduct, received inconsistent treatment leading up to his termination — with the decision to terminate based upon a flawed investigation; his dismissal was deemed unfair by the Commissioner.

The company was directed to back pay the employee for seven weeks, reducing the amount due to the employee’s misconduct and use of inappropriate language. The Commissioner also ordered the employee be issued with a final warning that would remain in his file for 12 months.

The Commissioner expressed concern about the continuing relationships, and the levels of distrust, between the company’s different factions of employees at the site, recommending the company participate in the FWC’s developing workplace betterment program in an effort to reverse its “hostile working environment”. 

iHR believes that healthy workplace cultures improve employee well-being and productivity and building such a culture is a skill that can be learned by managers and team leaders.  Our Managing Team Performance program builds competence and confidence to effectively manage staff performance within the workplace.  Course content includes identification of leadership behaviours that will foster a high performance culture as well as management approaches for under-performance.




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