An employee has been awarded compensation after he was dismissed for becoming argumentative and confrontationist when his request for leave was rejected, Fair Work Australia has said.
In a decision made earlier this month, the Fair Work Commission awarded Stephen Quigley an amount of $5,895.48, after ruling that his dismissal by small business Belfast Sinks was “unjust, unreasonable and harsh”.
Mr Quigley decided to refer his case to the Fair Work Commission after he was dismissed following his request for four days of annual leave for a holiday to Yallingup in Western Australia.
He sought the leave on 8 February 2019, three weeks prior to his intended holiday, and explained to his employer that his parents were vising from overseas. However, despite being employed at the company for over a year, Mr Quigley got his leave request rejected.
The full-time sales manager was told by the company’s director, Andrew Shaw, that due to the decreased staff count, on account of other people having taken leave during the same period, having a “one-man band for the most part of March is not something the business can sustain presently”.
Despite acknowledging Mr Shaw’s “fair points”, Mr Quigley did not back down and insisted that his dates weren’t flexible.
According to Mr Quigley, a dispute ensued when Mr Shaw threatened him with an ultimatum, stating that if Mr Quigley did not agree to take the leave on Mr Shaw’s terms only, he was welcome to resign.
The Fair Work Commission heard that several conversations followed, many of which ended with Mr Quigley hanging up the phone on Mr Shaw.
Mr Quigley was eventually offered unpaid authorised leave but was told that upon his return he would have a meeting with Mr Shaw to determine whether their relationship was “salvageable”.
During the meeting, which saw the pair engage in another argument, Mr Shaw eventually decided that “he and Mr Quigley should part ways as gentleman”, acknowledging that the relationship was over.
However, after negotiations over Mr Quigley’s notice period turned sour, he shortly received an email containing a signed written letter of termination with the reasons for dismissal explained as “misconduct, insubordination, general misconduct and gross misconduct”.
At the Fair Work Commission hearing, Deputy President Abbey Beaumont said she did not agree with Mr Shaw’s opinion that the employee’s conduct was sufficiently serious to justify immediate dismissal.
While critical of the evidence given by both sides comparing their “eye rolling” and “dramatic head shaking” to “a second-rate soap opera”, Deputy President Abbey Beaumont said that Mr Quigley was not accorded “any semblance of procedural fairness”.
She noted that while she does acknowledge that Belfast Sinks is a small business, “I am not satisfied that Belfast Sinks had a valid reason for Mr Quigley’s dismissal”.
“I have concluded Mr Quigley’s dismissal was unjust, unreasonable and harsh,” Ms Beaumont ruled, ordering Belfast Sinks to pay Mr Quigley $5,895.48 in compensation, equivalent to four weeks of salary, after deciding that reinstatement is not an appropriate remedy.
Ms Beaumont concluded that despite Mr Quigley’s confrontationist, argumentative and insubordinate behaviour, he was not warned that such conduct could lead to dismissal.
“I find Mr Quigley was not relevantly warned his employment was in jeopardy as a result of his behaviour prior to the discussion on 1 March 2019 that led to his dismissal,” she said.
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic is the editor of My Business.
Maja has an extensive career as a journalist across finance, business and market intelligence. Prior to joining Momentum Media, Maja spent several years unravelling social, political and economic intricacies in Eastern Europe.