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Foul mouth worker gives one spray too many

by , 29 February 2016
I reckon most companies tolerate a bit of swearing in the workplace (and the boardroom) so why would a worker get the sack for dropping the odd F-bomb?

Well, in the words of a famous cricket bowler, it's all in the delivery (actually, I think I made that up).

The difference between an acceptable level of swearing in the workplace and swearing at a supervisor is what the courts determine is enough to warrant the dismissal of an employee who had been warned about previous transgressions.

The employer told the court the employee had been cautioned in the past for his abusive language but he let fly again after injuring his lower back while lifting boxes in a way that he had previously reported as unsafe. But this time, the target of his tirade was his supervisor.

But when the manager asked him to calm down and move away from fellow workers to discuss this situation, the abusive worker refused and continued the barrage of abusive language.

Culturally acceptable

The commissioner accepted there was a culture of conversational swearing in the workplace, but she agreed with the employer's submissions that no-one in the workplace should be subjected to that sort of abuse or spoken to that way. (I've left out the details about what was said, but a lot of phrases end in 'you' and 'this').

Even though the worker had since apologised for the incident, the commissioner said this didn't alter his conduct and that there were other means at his disposal for which to address the company's health and safety obligations.

The commissioner found that the repeated use of the "f" word in such an aggressive fashion, combined with his previous warning, meant the dismissal was valid.

If you ever have to manage misconduct in your workplace, there are six crucial things you need to consider.
Click here to find out what they are...

How would your company deal with an outburst like the one mentioned above, especially if the worker was raising genuine concerns about a workplace issue?

Do your policies clearly define the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and what constitutes misconduct?

As an employer or manager of staff, one of your most important tasks is to encourage and maintain a productive, positive and healthy working environment.

To successfully achieve this balance, you need to set clear expectations for the performance and behaviour of your workers.

You also need to be able to identify behaviour that is in breach of your workplace standards and to respond swiftly to inappropriate behaviour and misconduct.

It's important you understand how to avoid any legal repercussions should you choose to dismiss a worker for misconduct.

You need policies and procedures in place that outline:
•    How you expect employees to behave;
•    How to conduct an investigation into employee misconduct; and
•    The disciplinary steps you'll take if an employee breaches workplace standards.

To help guide you through this process we've developed an important resource that deals specifically with employee misconduct – Managing Misconduct.

This 78-page eReport explains exactly what behaviour constitutes misconduct and provides clear guidelines on how you should effectively respond. You'll find out:
•    10 Essential items to include in your workplace policies;
•    6 Things to consider before conducting an investigation into misconduct;
•    A 7-step guide to conducting an investigation;
•    3 Potential alternatives to dismissing an employee for misconduct;
•    How to minimise your exposure to legal risk when dismissing an employee; and
•    How to recognise serious misconduct and implement summary dismissal

Being able to respond to employee misconduct quickly, confidently and effectively - while minimising any legal risk - will help ensure the productivity of your business remains uncompromised.

P.S Click here to find out more about Managing Misconduct

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