Dispute Resolution Practitioner Dismissed for Dispute

An experienced Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner has lost his unfair dismissal claim in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) after a dispute with a colleague in the workplace led to his sacking.

Background

The applicant in the matter, Mr Hanson, was employed from May 2016 until his dismissal in September last year by an organisation providing dispute resolution and related services to members of the community affected by family breakdowns.

On 7 September last year, Mr Hanson was involved in an incident with his colleague, Ms Johnson.  He was subsequently dismissed for serious misconduct relating to the incident. It was alleged that Mr Hanson engaged in inappropriate and unprofessional conduct consistent with aggression.  It was alleged he had:

  • entered Ms Johnson’s office, thrown a file down on her desk and proceeded to yell at her
  • become very angry towards Ms Johnson and yelled at her, such that other staff members came to check and see if she was okay
  • refused to leave Ms Johnson’s office

What the FWC found

Before the FWC, Mr Hanson downplayed the incident.  But Commissioner McKinnon found he was not a persuasive witness and his version of events lacked credibility. The Commissioner was also critical of Ms Johnson’s role in the incident, finding that she displayed a lack of professional respect for Mr Hanson and her approach was less than collegiate.  The Commission found, however, that Ms Johnson did not deserve to be treated the way she was with her safety put at risk and her sense of security at work shaken.

While Mr Hanson argued the dismissal was disproportionate to the conduct alleged, the FWC found he did not admit the relevance of his conduct and his denial, coupled with the effect of the conduct on Ms Johnson, satisfied the Commission that dismissal was a proportionate response in the circumstances.

Hanson v FMC Mediation and Counselling Victoria T/A Better Place Australia [2019] FWC 2903

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