In the recent decision of Browne v Coles Group Supply Chain
Pty Limited  FWC 3670, the Fair Work Commission
reinstated a employee who been dismissed for initiating a fight
with a colleague whilst at work. In his decision, Vice President
Hatcher determined that initiating the fight constituted a valid
reason for dismissal, but that the dismissal was harsh because it
was disproportionate to the conduct when having regard to the
employee's 18 years' of service and previous good record of
service. The decision may be of particular concerns to employers,
as it suggests that workplace violence may not automatically give
rise to a valid and defensible basis for dismissal. This may be the
case even if the employer has a zero-tolerance policy to workplace
violence, and/or it conducts a thorough investigation of the
violent incident whilst affording the employee procedural fairness
This decision also illustrates the evolving approach industrial
tribunals have taken to determining employment and dismissal claims
involving employee violence. In the past, dismissals involving
employee violence have frequently been upheld by the industrial
tribunals (such as the Fair Work Commission), irrespective of
extenuating circumstances or the impact of the dismissal on the
employee. In the article "No Fighting on the Job" – but what of the
Fight for Reinstatement. Peter Punch provides some more
thoughts on the decision, as well as the evolution of industrial
tribunals' attitudes when dealing with dismissal claims
involving workplace violence.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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