The scandal of a racist joke between employees has angered many employers, who claim they are being held responsible for policing behaviour outside of their control.
Queensland tour business Rainbow Beach Adventure Company has made global headlines after a Maori employee launched action on the grounds of racial vilification after a bottle labelled “black guy repllent [sic]” was handed to him.
The poor-taste “joke” was apparently between several employees, and not the business management.
That point left My Business readers seething, with several wondering why the business is being held liable for the actions of its staff.
“I still struggle to see how it’s the business’ responsibility. I believe if there is a case to answer then it’s a ‘civil’ issue. We are not running ‘Adult Day Care Centres’!” one exclaimed.
“To manage employees how ‘Fair Work’ expects then it’s down the path of disciplinary meetings and written warnings, etc. I’ve also seen enough of these instances where that first warning puts the employee offside and then it’s the business owner/manager watching their back.”
The reader claimed this was “not a good situation for anyone and that employee should have been able to be removed from the business on the spot”.
Others agreed that the business owner is almost always left out of pocket regardless of whether they were involved in the matter.
“Whichever way a business goes it seems they will be forced to pay up — it does seem to be $ driven. This is not a fair system for business owners,” another replied.
Similar comments arose in response to a separate story on unfair dismissal, where the employer was deemed to have unfairly sacked a driver despite having evidence of reckless behaviour.
“So an employee can hand in resignation any time for whatever reason they want yet an employer cannot give an employee notice to leave for whatever reason they want. Fair Work stops right there,” said one reader.
Another added that the situation is “extremely unfair on the employer”.
“So many times they have just cause to dismiss but still Fair Work demands they have to pay. There is no government support for the employer.
“Small business struggles so much as it is. This sort of thing can cripple a small business.”
The Fair Work Commission is currently overhauling its processes in a bid to “ensure the services we provide are efficient, effective and responsive to the expectations of the Australian community”.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.