Feb 172017
 

A few phrases you won’t hear at an airport are ‘bomb’ and ‘terrorist.’ When a Perth baggage handler posted ‘We all support ISIS’ to Facebook, he got the boot and $4,800 compensation for unfair dismissal.

What happened?

Aerocare Flight Support terminated Singh’s employment, after he made 5 posts on Facebook under the name ‘Sherry Solus Singh.’ One of the posts read, ‘We all support ISIS.’ Aerocare claimed that the post was not only in breach of their strict social media policy, but also jeopardised Aerocare’s relationship with its clients.

In his defence, Singh produced social media posts that he made in support of the Australian government’s immigration policies and anti-terror laws and argued that the comment was only ‘sarcastic.’ Commissioner Jennifer Hunt remarked that the comment did not ‘even have the look of sarcasm,’ but nevertheless found Singh’s dismissal to be ‘harsh, unjust and unreasonable.’

Why was Singh’s dismissal unfair?  

Commissioner Hunt ruled that even though Singh’s comment was ‘incredibly stupid’ and constituted misconduct, a thorough internal investigation would have shown that Singh did not support ISIS and was not a threat to airport security.

Moreover, Aerocare failed to maintain procedural fairness by only taking 10 minutes to deliberate Singh’s responses and not considering any alternatives to dismissal. Aerocare made the decision to dismiss Singh without giving him an opportunity to properly respond to the allegations. Singh also deleted the post and apologised for making it, which Aerocare failed to take into account.

What was the result?

Since the handler was not seeking reinstatement, the Commissioner awarded him $4,800 in compensation for lost wages. This amount constituted 8 weeks in wages, reduced by 40% for Singh’s violation of Aerocare’s social media policy.

Lessons for employers

Even if you think an employee has acted in clear violation of your workplace policies, make sure that you conduct a thorough investigation and carefully consider the employee’s response before coming to a final decision.

Don’t forget that terminating employment without taking into account the employee’s specific circumstances and maintaining procedural fairness is a sure recipe for a successful unfair dismissal claim.

Get in touch

Want to know how to protect yourself from unfair dismissal claims and establish a bullet proof social media policy? Read our article on social media policies here and contact Peter McNamara for advice about your employee’s conduct today. 

Read the full case of Mr Nirmal Singh v Aerocare Flight Support Pty Ltd [2016] FWC 6186 here.

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