A Melbourne employee was dismissed effective immediately, without notice, after attending an illegal anti-vaccination protest in September, 2021. The employee lodged an ‘unfair dismissal’ claim with the Fair Work Commission on the grounds that participation in the protest was of no concern or relevance to the employer or company. Despite such claims, the Fair Work Tribunal ruled in support of the employer, finding the actions warranted.
On the day of the anti-vaccination protest, employees were given a reasonable direction to ‘go home’ following the workplace shutdown in response to the Melbourne ‘lock down’ initiated by Public Health. The employee ignored both the directive of the employee and Public Health by participating in the protest, which was not only unreasonable but also illegal.
The employee was immediately dismissed the day after attending the anti-vaccination protest on the grounds of serious misconduct. The employer found the employee to have posed an acknowledged health and safety risk to colleagues and the workplace by partaking in such an event, jeopardising the employer’s reputation and business through association, alongside the possibility of incurring significant fines.
The Fair Work Tribunal found that the immediate dismissal of the employee was unreasonable in response to the level of misconduct claimed but ruled in support of the employer in consideration of the employee’s attendance at an ‘unlawful’ protest. The protest that the employee participated was found to be industry specific, directed at the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, objecting against the extended closures of businesses and the mandated vaccination to be imposed upon reopening. As a result, the termination was upheld, and Fair Work ordered monetary compensation to the employee to equate to what would have been received should they have been terminated with notice.
Ultimately, it is an employee’s duty of care to protect the reputation of their employer, being mindful in what they do and the activities that they partake in. The external activities and behaviours of an employee can influence business by impacting upon productivity, marketing and transactions, and is therefore a breach of misconduct that requisites disciplinary action. You can find more information surrounding misconduct and dismissal in our Info Guides on Dismissal, Termination and Employee Performance.
If you can relate to this story or find yourself within similar circumstance, contact Assurance HR for guidance and support to action appropriate disciplinary or dismissal process. Call our team of professionals at Assurance HR today on 1800 577 515 to discuss how we can help you in remaining compliant.