A quick decision to suspend all international postings of
licensed aircraft engineers and a short-tempered phone-call has
resulted in a costly adverse action claim for Qantas.
After returning from a six week overseas posting to Narita, the
engineer made a claim for time off in lieu and payment for
additional hours worked while he was in Narita.
After the claim for additional payment was initially rejected,
the engineer invoked the dispute resolution clause of his
The next day, Qantas suspended all overseas postings of Brisbane
based engineers indefinitely. Qantas later lifted the ban after a
The Court held that the suspension of the overseas postings was
adverse action as it was a detrimental alteration to the
A Qantas senior manager was also criticised for intimidating the
engineer during a phone call, during which he was found to have
been short-tempered and tried to coerce the engineer into dropping
The Court found that the senior manager said that 'the
guys who accept their conditions....are the ones who get asked to
go away next time.'
Key lessons for employers
This decision highlights the broad and far-reaching grasp of the
adverse action, or general protections, provisions of the Fair Work
Act. Employers need to be aware that the concept of
'detriment', in the context of the adverse action
provisions, extends extremely far.
Employers should avoid making knee-jerk decisions in response to
claims, complaints and disputes and ensure that managers and
employees who are tasked with handling these complaints are well
trained in the adverse action provisions to ensure that 'heat
of the moment' comments or decisions don't come back to
bite the business.
Whilst difficult circumstances can lead to a heated exchange of
words, it is important that managers keep control and refrain from
commenting until things have cooled to allow for a more considered
response to be made.
Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
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