The recent decision of Deputy President Hamilton in Reedy v Global Cranes Pty Limited gives hope to Employers who want to terminate employees who simply cause trouble in the workplace.
It was alleged that Ms Reedy spread a rumour accusing the company director (Mr Vidaic) of being photographed with another woman at a depot owned by the Employer. In fact, Ms Reedy advised the director’s fiancé (Ms Tarrant) about the rumour.
Ms Reedy’s employment was terminated with notice.
D.P. Hamilton had to consider whether there was a ‘valid’ reason for the dismissal. The term ‘valid reason’ was considered by Northrop J in Selvachandran v. Petron Plastics Pty Ltd. He said:
“In its context …. the adjective `valid’ should be given the meaning of sound, defensible or well founded. A reason which is capricious, fanciful, spiteful or prejudiced could never be a valid reason for the purposes of …. [the legislation]. At the same time the reason must be valid in the context of the employee’s capacity or conduct or based upon the operational requirements of the employer’s business. Further, in considering whether a reason is valid, it must be remembered that the requirement applies in the practical sphere of the relationship between an employer and an employee where each has rights and privileges and duties and obligations conferred and imposed on them. the provisions must `be applied in a practical, common sense way to ensure that’ the employer and employee are each treated fairly…”
D.P Hamilton found that there was a valid reason for termination of Ms Reedy’s employment. Ms Reedy deliberately told the director’s fiancé about a rumour in a manner which was designed to cause trouble in the workplace, in particular between Ms Tarrant and Mr Vidaic. It is clear what a reference to another woman was in the context of the conversation. It was not an innocent reference.
Ms Reedy did not attempt to privately warn Mr Vidaic that there were unfounded and damaging rumours about him, in an act of loyalty or friendship. She chose instead to disclose a rumour to Ms Tarrant in a tantalising and highly dramatic manner. Her actions can only be explained as those of a disgruntled employee attempting to cause serious trouble in the workplace for Mr Vidaic, her employer. Ms Reedy was disgruntled in her employment because of a variety of different reasons.
After deciding that the Employer had a ‘valid’ reason for termination, D.P. Hamilton considered the following further factors:
Notified of that reason – Ms Reedy was notified of the reason for her termination in the letter of termination dated 23 December 2010.
An opportunity to respond – Mr Vidaic intended to notify Ms Reedy of the allegations at a meeting on 22 December. However, Ms Reedy did not attend that meeting and therefore was not given an opportunity to respond to the allegations. Ms Reedy had been sick. Ms Reedy was not given an opportunity to respond to the valid reason. Nevertheless, the circumstances mitigated this to some extent.
D.P. Hamilton concluded that the termination of Ms Reedy’s employment was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable. She was afforded a fair go all round. An order dismissing the application was made.