Manager who Hits Employee Sacked, but Court has Another View.
An interesting case in South Australia last week, with the former Manager of Peter Stevens Motor Cycles who allegedly had punched an employee on a regular basis who was consequently sacked, but the court has since found, “unjustly.”
In McLaren-Gates v Peter Stevens Motor Cycles  FWC 3041, Senior Deputy President O’Callaghan held that a failure to adequately investigate the complaint made against McLaren-Gates, let alone to allow him to fully respond to the allegations, rendered an otherwise safe decision to dismiss McLaren-Gates as unreasonable and leaving the employer open to a compensation claim.
McLaren-Gates was employed in a managerial position with the employer for a short period of time.
It was alleged by an apprentice that McLaren-Gates would regularly punch him on the arm, and would bully him in front of customers and other co-workers. Importantly, the employer only investigated the punching incident, which McLaren-Gates admitted to (on a general basis).
The employer then dismissed McLaren-Gates and paid him 2 weeks notice in lieu.
Senior Deputy President O’Callaghan noted that whilst McLaren-Gates was guilty of wilful misconduct, the failure to adequately investigate the conduct and the subsequent dismissal, could only be described as being unfair and unreasonable.
In his 10-page judgment, the judge ruled it was “disproportionate to the misconduct” amid a questionable company investigation but added it was “valid” given his managerial position.
He said he was also not satisfied that the “intensity and the precise nature” of the conduct had been established and that he was sacked not based on facts but inferences.
Mr McLaren-Gates was awarded $9,117 in compensation.
This case clearly demonstrates to employers the need to carefully approach disciplinary matters, and to ensure that measured and reasoned actions are taken.
If you require employment law advice, please don’t hesitate to contact our Litigation Team to discuss your concerns.