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Let me get this straight – my employees are allowed to call me a [email protected]#$ so and so?

Tuesday, 4 June 2013 | By Martin Nally

I’ve seen a couple of cases in the news recently where workers who were fired for swearing at their bosses were found to have been dismissed unfairly.


Does this mean I have to put up with being abused by my employees? What the hell?


It all depends upon the environment you have created through either your own behaviour and habits and the standards you have been seen to accept through the performance of your other employees.


In recent cases in the Fair Work arena, the workplaces were environments in which bad language was regularly used and accepted.


Although these companies had a policy in place that swearing in the workplace was not tolerated, it was conceded that employees may have received “mixed messages” about the use of foul language.


So it’s a case of ‘what you accept you approve’.

This axiom applies with a whole range of behavioural standards in your workplace:


  • Safety
  • Harassment/bullying
  • Fair treatment
  • Foul language
  • Racism
  • And the list goes on….


Now I am not suggesting that you suddenly become all pious on me, but can I ask a question?


What would you be happy to have happen in your home in front of your kids?


So the short answer is you get what you deserve.


No you don’t have to put up with abuse from your employees, but you know neither do they need to take it from you or their teammates.


The unfairness will be determined on a case-by-case basis. There is no one rule.


So let’s hope you don’t have to deal with this, but if you did and you dismissed a staff member for abusing you, you would need to show:


  • the standards you have maintained;
  • the code of conduct you developed and communicated;
  • the consistent behaviour you have encouraged and exhibited; and
  • the process you put in place to discipline and then dismiss.


By demonstrating these, they would not have a case against you and your dismissal will stand.


If you cannot then you are looking down the barrel of an unfair dismissal. In which case you should call me and we can work out a plan.