Caravan park groundsman wins unfair dismissal case in unusual circumstances

by Oct 8, 2021All Posts, Industrial Relations

Imagine yourself in this situation – an employee invades your privacy by entering your personal residence in the morning before you commence work, storms down your hallway towards your bedroom, wakes you up and begins a tirade of swearing and complaining about a park resident….is this scenario grounds for instant dismissal?

This exact case was heard by the Fair Work Commission on 10 July 2018 when a groundsman working for a Caravan Park in South Australia, applied for an unfair dismissal remedy against his employer.

Here is a summary of the case:

  • The groundsman had a verbal altercation in the caravan park with a park resident due to the resident driving faster than the 8kph speed limit.
  • The groundsman was called “lazy” (among many other things) by the resident and became extremely agitated.
  • The groundsman then “stormed” into the park managers personal onsite residence, proceeded down the hallway and stopped at the bedroom door. He woke the park manager and vented his frustrations.
  • Later that day, the park manager checked the Fair Work website, the company Code of Conduct and the Discipline and Termination Policy, and decided the groundsman’s actions were “serious misconduct” and grounds for instant dismissal.
  • The park manager phoned the groundsman two days later and told him of his decision to end his employment.
  • The groundsman’s employment was terminated. He received no pay in lieu of notice.

An essential criteria for finding a dismissal fair is that there needs to be a valid reason for the dismissal.

The park manager argued that the reason for his employee’s dismissal was due to the invasion of privacy without authorisation by standing in the doorway of his bedroom.

Surprisingly, the judge found this not to be a valid reason for summary dismissal, based on the following reason(s):

“A dismissal for serious misconduct needs to be premised on conduct which strikes at the heart of the employment relationship, rendering its continuation incompatible with the conduct that has occurred.“

The judge further stated that “I consider that (groundsman’s) conduct in entering (park manager’s) private residence on 23 March 2018, walking into his private hallway and standing in the doorway of his private bedroom was without question foolish and inappropriate. It was also reckless because having done so he saw the manager asleep but disregarded that fact and proceeded to speak to the manager about his unhappiness with another person, thus awaking him. There was no emergency at hand and no particular urgency in taking the course he did. (Resident) had retreated to his van. The argument had ended. (Groundsman) could have just as readily waited until (park manager) appeared in the workplace to vent his unhappiness.”

The judge further went on to explain that he felt the conduct “justified a final warning, or, dismissal with notice”, however, felt it was “not so serious as to strike at the heart of the employment relationship so as to make its continuation unviable.”

He said that “In that sense, there was no valid reason for “the dismissal”, being the summary dismissal. It was both unreasonable and harsh.”

What do you think? Do you think the outcome was fair to the employer? Why/why not? Give us a call today to discuss, or share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Case: Mr Carl Barone v Zero In Pty Ltd T/A Shoreline Caravan Park [2018] FWC 3993 (10 July 2018)

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