A decision by the Fair Work Commission has sparked alarm in legal circles as a worker sacked for calling colleagues “f---ing c--t” is reinstated.
The Australian Financial Review ran a front-page story on the verdict, claiming that “the decision has caused shock in legal circles”.
Miner South32 reportedly fired a delegate from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) for threatening workers and calling them, among other things, “f---king c--t”.
Yet the commissioner found that such colourful language is no grounds for dismissal.
“In my experience, the expression f---ing c—t is commonly used across all walks of life in society,” Commissioner Bernie Riordan said in handing down the verdict.
He noted that swearing in the workplace is “unfortunate but very commonplace”.
South32 has been approached for comment on the matter.
It comes despite lawyers insisting that employers are increasingly being held liable for harassment and bullying in the workplace.
However, uncertainty about the role of swearing and offensive language in dismissing an employee is nothing new.
Among the My Business archives, an article written in 2012 by lawyers Alexandra Kongats and Sarah Hedger of CBP Lawyers revealed that swearing in the workplace does not always constitute grounds for dismissal.
“One instance of misconduct in the form of objectionable language may not necessarily constitute grounds for immediate termination. The nature of the workplace, the level of offensive language and whether there has been ongoing misconduct should also be considered,” they wrote.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.