Worker gets $4k after calling boss ‘racist bitch’
A DARWIN cafe worker who was sacked for calling his boss a "racist bitch" has been awarded nearly $4000 by Fair Work Commission.
Phillip Coffey filed an application for unfair dismissal after being sacked from QBar in March last year. Mr Coffey, who had worked at the small cafe since October 2015, told the Commission the problems started after the commencement of QBar's new manager, Marii Stanley.
He alleged Ms Stanley, who is of Estonian background, soon started employing her friends who came from the same cultural group and spoke the same language. Mr Coffey said these staff often spoke in Estonian among themselves, describing it as "cultural exclusion".
"It is very noticeable that the Estonian group of staff are favoured over everybody else and this is also not fair for the other staff members," he wrote in an email to Ms Stanley and the cafe's owner, Kristie Foreman, in October 2016.
"Marii this is not a personal attack on you by any means, I'm just passing on comments that have been raised to my attention for some time now."
Things came to a head in February last year when Ms Stanley and a number of Estonian staff were leaving work together. Mr Coffey said Ms Stanley said goodbye to everyone in Estonian. When she walked past Mr Coffey and another employee, Mr Coffey said "seeya", and Ms Stanley did not reply.
Mr Coffey then said to his colleague, "She can be a racist bitch."
The comment was overheard by another worker, who told Ms Stanley and Ms Foreman. Mr Coffey told Commission he probably should not have made the comment but he stood by it, adding that "everyone swears" in the cafe and that he should not be made out to be the "nasty one".
"I have been made out the be bad person here for making one comment out of anger and frustration, I'm not sorry for what I said as it is how I feel after watching everything go on in this place over the last year and it's not right," he wrote in an email to Ms Foreman in March last year.
"I have been in touch with my union and Fair Work on this matter, I have logged formal complaints with both with statements not only from me. This whole time you have disregarded anything that I have said to you or any email I have sent to you regarding the issue."
Following that email, Ms Foreman sacked Mr Coffey, citing a reduction in the hours available and his unwillingness to reconcile with Ms Stanley.
Fair Work Commissioner Michelle Bissett said Mr Coffey's actions could "at best be described as inappropriate and unprofessional". "They warranted some reproach and warning as to his conduct from Ms Foreman," she said. "I am not convinced however that they warranted dismissal."
Ms Bisset said there was "no valid reason for the dismissal", describing it as "not a sound decision but one taken perhaps out of frustration", adding that while Mr Coffey "contributed to this frustration such a matter should be properly managed in the first instance before dismissal might be justified".
"For the reasons set out above I am satisfied that Mr Coffey's dismissal was harsh and unjust. For the reasons given I am satisfied that Mr Coffey was unfairly dismissed."
Mr Coffey was not seeking reinstatement and Ms Bissett found in circumstances such as this, "in a small working environment and where relationships have soured", reinstatement would not be appropriate. QBar was ordered to pay Mr Coffey $3898 plus superannuation.