A valid reason for termination, yet unfair dismissal case a success

Despite going on an email rant castigating the company’s IT department, an employee at Melbourne’s Asia Pacific International College won his unfair dismissal case.

Dr Ian Horgan was an employee of Asia Pacific International College (APIC) as a full time course coordinator between March and October last year. The Fair Work Commission heard that the principal of APIC, Dr Ali Jaafari, emailed Dr Horgan substantially throughout his seven months of employment as he was concerned with Dr Horgan’s attitude towards other staff.

The Commission heard that Dr Horgan had been given a warning for his continual insults towards colleagues and his bad mouthing of APIC college. The most compromising were Dr Horgan’s emails to the IT department where he criticised their abilities and claimed he was ‘fed up with fielding IT related issues from students’.

APIC alleged that Horgan’s other communications via email with staff and students were also inappropriate and disrespectful.

Fair Work Commissioner Julius Roe agreed, saying Horgan had been warned and counselled about the matter and he was satisfied the behaviour was not acceptable. Roe stated that since Dr Hogan’s behaviour was repeated that it constituted misconduct and as such was a valid reason for dismissal.

However, even though there was a valid reason for Dr Horgan’s dismissal, Commissioner Roe ruled that the dismissal was unfair due to Dr Horgan not being advised of the reasons for his termination and therefore, was not given the chance to respond.

Dr Horgan was awarded a total of four weeks’ pay in compensation for the dismissal.

Employers need to ensure they follow the correct procedures when terminating staff. Even though APIC had a valid reason for the termination of Dr Horgan’s employment, they did not follow a fair process and give the employee a chance to respond.