Natalie Eastwood v Brewarrina Business Coop Limited T/A Brewarrina Business Centre [2016] FWC 6709 (U2016/5128). COMMISSIONER MCKENNA, 27 SEPTEMBER 2016.

 

The applicant, Natalie Eastwood, worked with the organisation for about seven months, until her dismissal with a week’s pay in lieu of notice. Her employer being as a not-for-profit cooperative which worked to ensure sustainable enterprise in Aboriginal communities.

 

The applicant was employed as a as First Teacher Educator and considered herself a hard-working employee, well-regarded and passionate about her role. She considered she worked in an environment where, among other issues, she (and other employees) had been the subject of workplace bullying.

 

Whilst noting the following, the Commissioner did not find them relevant to this matter:

“There was much material before the Commission about matters including: internal disputation; allegations and counter-allegations of bullying in the workplace; individuals who were absenting themselves from work due to stress; workers’ compensation claims; alleged privacy intrusions and the like.”

However, the organisation considered the applicant to have (despite assistance and counselling) underperformed and who was aggressive in her workplace interactions.

 

Interestingly, Legal Aid New South Wales initially assisted the applicant with respect to her application, then a private solicitor, then a paid agent.

 

The Commissioner commented that this case made for “regrettable reading” in its description of a workplace characterised by apparent dysfunction and difficulties in interpersonal relationships.

 

The Commissioner finding:

 

“Shortly stated, I consider that respondent had a valid reason for the dismissal related to both the applicant’s capacity and her conduct. Equally however, the dismissal was effected in a way that, in the end, lacked any semblance of procedural fairness – and truncated what might otherwise have unfolded during a more formal performance review period.

 

“The applicant’s conduct, as reflected in, for example, the regrettable tenor of some of her communications, appears to have been based on the applicant’s view that she was better placed than those who managed and supervised her in her employment about how the respondent’s operations should be conducted and the manner in which her work might be undertaken. The applicant took it upon herself to be a conduit for the views of some members of the local community or some members of the staff; the tenor of some of the communications was certainly high-handed and, on one view of matters, also erratic.

 

“I am further satisfied the applicant displayed aggression in the workplace, such as may have had an effect on the safety and welfare of other employees (albeit I note that the applicant alleges that she herself was the subject of bullying, and genuinely considers this to have been the case). In this regard, I note the applicant did not make any application to the Commission with respect to an anti-bullying claim prior to the dismissal, and nor did she make any workers’ compensation claim either before or after the dismissal with respect to any stress injury”.

 

In dismissing the application, the Commissioner concluded:

 

“Even accepting there was an absence of procedural fairness that attended the dismissal, I would reduce any order that may otherwise have been made in the applicant’s favour to nil on account of that misconduct”.

Greg Reiffel Industrial Relations & Human Resources Consulting has been providing the following services to businesses for over 30 years:

 

  • General HR and IR advisory service.
  • Fair Work Commission representation (eg unfair dismissals, adverse actions, etc.).
  • Workplace investigations and mediations.
  • Policies and procedures.
  • Discipline & Termination.
  • People Audits (are you at risk of prosecution?).
  • Enterprise Agreements, Contracts of Employment, Individual Flexibility Agreements.
  • On-site HR services.

Contact Greg on 0438 906 050 or mailto: greg@gregreiffelconsulting.com.au.