Case Note: Rogers v Allianz Insurance Australia T/A Club Marine Insurance [2017] FWC 537

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Facts

Mr Rogers was employed as the National Business Development Manager for the boating insurance branch of Allianz Australia Services Pty Ltd. He was later dismissed for two reasons.

The first reason given for his dismissal was his conduct at a company team building event. It was said he became aggressive towards a female colleague to the point that it made other colleagues feel uncomfortable. Mr Rogers was also said to have made an inappropriate comment to another female colleague while in a taxi after the company team building event had ended. The comment left her feeling upset and offended. Mr Rogers admitted to making the comment.

The second reason for his dismissal was that he was said to have misused his position with the company to obtain personal benefit, for example in the form of business class airfares and accommodation for overseas holidays.

Issue

The issue was whether or not the reasons for Mr Rogers’ dismissal were fair.

Judgement

Commissioner Roe found that Mr Rogers’ dismissal was fair.

It was found that Mr Rogers’ aggressive behaviour was not sufficiently serious that it could form a valid reason for dismissal. However, the inappropriate comment and the obtainment of personal benefit without the prior approval of management were.

In relation to the inappropriate comment, Mr Rogers raised the issue that it took place outside the normal place and hours of work. However, Commissioner Roe found that an employee may be dismissed for conduct outside of work where there is a sufficient connection to his or her employment and the conduct is of such gravity as to warrant dismissal. The court may consider among other things the damage to the relationship between the employer and employee and the damage to the employer’s interests.[1]

In this particular case, it was found that the connection between the inappropriate comment and Mr Roger’s employment was clear. Mr Rogers was in attendance at the company team building event in his role as employee. He would not have left in the taxi where the inappropriate comment was made if it were not for the requirement that he attend the event. As such, the taxi ride afterwards was a necessary part of the event. In addition, Mr Rogers’ conduct was thought likely to seriously damage the female employee’s relationship with Allianz. The inappropriate comment affected her ability to work effectively in cooperation with Mr Rogers notwithstanding her professionalism. Allianz’s interests were thus damaged as a consequence. Therefore, the reasons for Mr Roger’s dismissal were found to be fair.

Lessons Learned

This case highlights that employees may be dismissed for serious conduct committed outside of work where there is a sufficient connection to their employment.

[1] B Rose v Telstra Corporation Limited (1998) Q9292.

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Written by Eduardo Cruz (Senior Associate) and Brooke Nickerson (Law Clerk).