Termination – Breach of Policy

Termination – Breach of Policy

The decision to terminate a Sydney Harbour Captain for failing a drug test subsequent to his involvement in a ferry accident was overturned by the Fair Work Commission full bench.

There was some discussion around the methods of testing employed, but the full bench stated “The core issue, the valid reason for termination of [the ferry master’s] employment was his deliberate disobedience, as a senior employee, of a significant policy.”

It was clearly stated that the company had a “zero tolerance” policy for drugs and alcohol.  However it was originally found that while the ferry master’s positive result for marijuana provided a valid reason for his dismissal, mitigating factors made it harsh, unjust or unreasonable. As previously referenced in this blog, mitigating factors must always be taken into account.

The full bench said the factors the defence team relied on did not address the core issue, which was the “serious misconduct which led to the dismissal”. There was no question about whether the employee was aware of the company’s drug and alcohol policy and its application but he decided to still take a shift which he could have refused.

The key message though is around looking at the whole picture. Just because a serious breach has occurred, doesn’t automatically mean termination is the solution. This is where a 3rd party reviewing all the material can give you the independent perspective you might need.


Michael O'Shaughnessy

Michael is a specialist in all things HR. With vast HR experience in the USA and Australia, Michael brings a wealth of knowledge and advice to HR Central. When he's not blogging for HR Central you can find him out for dinner in one of Melbourne's newest restaurants.

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