When David Winter, Australia’s “internationally-renowned” competitive shooter, was facing the sack from Goodyear, he brought in the big guns (pun totally intended) by calling on Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm, who from his Twitter account photo, looks like a real life Dr Evil.
Mr Winter thought he’d help out another fun gun lovin’ mate of his by meeting her in Goodyear’s car park to talk guns. Problem was, that mate brought her gun! As may be expected, a passerby saw the gun, called the police, and there was a bit of a scene.
Although Mr Winter walked away with no more than a stern talking to from the cops, Goodyear wasn’t so forgiving. It wasn’t too impressed that Mr Winter gave his gun carrying friend access to its secure car park, and was equally annoyed that Mr Winter didn’t show any contrition for his wrongdoing. To make matters worse, Mr Winter brought in Dr Evil as his support person in one of the disciplinary meetings. Goodyear summarily dismissed Mr Winter for serious misconduct.
Bringing an unfair dismissal claim, Mr Winter tried to argue that he didn’t know his friend was going to bring a gun to their meeting. The Fair Work Commission didn’t buy it and found that the meeting was to discuss “fitting” or “fixing” an accessory to the gun. Therefore, Mr Winter should have anticipated that his friend may bring her deadly friend.
The FWC was also critical of Dr Evil, finding that he was an “overtly interventionist” support person and by bringing him to the meeting Mr Winter ensured that the employment relationship was irreparably damaged.
Despite all of this, the FWC held that, although Mr Winter’s conduct unambiguously justified the termination of his employment, it did not justify summary dismissal. Goodyear was ordered to pay Mr Winter his notice period.
This case is a friendly reminder that:
- even the most boneheaded of conduct may not overcome the high summary dismissal threshold and employers must be cautious when dismissing without notice;
- a support person is not an employee’s advocate and employers can take steps to ensure that the Dr Evils of the world don’t frustrate the disciplinary process.