The F-bomb seems to be dropped a lot more these days, in both the media and in public places - but a recent Fair Work decision makes it clear that it is not always acceptable, and may even be grounds for summary dismissal.
The case of Macdougall v SCT Pty Limited T/A Sydney City Toyota  FWC 1077 (25 March 2013) involved a Toyota employee getting involved in a heated conversation with a customer where the employee was found to have been “…‘pretty aggressive’, he raised his voice in front of other customers and swore at least twice”, including shouting “have you ordered that f*ing car yet?”
Offensive language can damage your businessThe exchange was potentially damaging to the employer’s business as not only did it take place in front of other customers, but the employer was also undergoing a tender process with the customer, a representative of the UNSW Fleet Services, for renewal of its status as a ‘preferred dealer’. This status was important to the car dealership and was a virtual guarantee of future business with the customer. The employer viewed the employee’s behaviour as "conduct which caused an imminent risk to the reputation and profitability" of the company.
The employee’s application to be reinstated was dismissed by the Fair Work Commission.
It is reassuring to see that the employer’s decision in this situation was validated; it was permissible for the company to protect its business and its customers.
Crack down on swearingThere is no doubt that it may be tough for employers to take a hard line in certain industries where swearing may be seen as the ‘norm’. However, where this could impact the employer’s business or its customers (and even other employees), then the employer may be within its rights to discipline those employees up to, and including, summary dismissal in some cases.
Guest blog by Christine Broad, BlandsLaw