Sacked for crude and offensive language

Sacked for crude and offensive language
By Rachel O'Connor on 8 March 2018 A Coles employee who used crude and offensive language was not unfairly dismissed, the Fair Work Commission has ruled.


Ridwan Ridwan had been a permanent part-time employee at the Coles Glenferrie store in Melbourne, Victoria since 4 December 1996.

He was dismissed on 29 August 2017 for  breaching the Coles Code of Conduct and Equal Opportunity Policy.

On 19 October 2016, Mr Ridwan received documented counselling for his repeated lateness but he later denied he took part.

Rachel Nelson began working as the customer service manager at the store in January 2017. She submits she did not have any issues with Mr Ridwan until 5 June 2017.

On this occasion, there were a series of text messages regarding a shift roster where he used ‘crude, inappropriate and abusive language’ when referring to the previous customer service manager.

Some of the exchanges included calling the former manager a ‘bloody retard’ and ‘a bloody OCD faggot’. A disciplinary meeting was held regarding his conduct on 10 June 2017, where the store manager considered Mr Ridwan’s length of service which spanned 21 years and the mention of his bipolar condition as mitigating factors. Mr Ridwan was issued with a first and final warning.

However, Mr Ridwan continued to use racist and abusive language to other staff members. In late June he allegedly shouted at staff members and called someone a ‘f**king curry’. One of the staff members said he was so afraid of Mr Ridwan that he took two weeks off out of concern for his safety.

Medical condition

On 4 July 2017, another meeting was held with Mr Ridwan regarding his continued offensive and inappropriate conduct. He did not deny making the comments but attributed this to his bipolar condition. The meeting was suspended in order to obtain further medical information.  
A medical report revealed that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that his judgment was partially impaired as a result. However Mr Ridwan was reluctant to consider mood stabilising medication.

Once the medical information was obtained, a meeting was held on 29 August 2017. Mr Ridwan denied the allegations and said it had been a ‘hard year’ for him and that ‘people were jealous of him’.  After considering the available material, Coles terminated Mr Ridwan’s employment and subsequently provided a letter of termination  on 30 August 2017.

Following that, Mr Ridwan continued to send abusive text messages and even attended the store on 6 September where he was said to have behaved in a ‘threatening, aggressive and erratic manner’. He had to be escorted away by the police.


Coles Supermarkets submitted that Mr Ridwan’s dismissal was for continuous unacceptable behaviour and conduct of an ‘aggressive and threatening nature’ that made other team mates fearful. It was further claimed that his misconduct was serious and breached both the Code of Conduct and Equal Opportunity Policy.

Mr Ridwan submitted that his termination was unfair because of his 21 years of service, his denial of the allegations and his mental health issues that negatively affected his behaviour.


The Fair Work Commission was satisfied Mr Ridwan was protected from unfair dismissal and turned to s387 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) to determine whether it was unfair because it was ‘harsh, unjust or unreasonable’.

The commission preferred the evidence provided by the company witnesses  which was unchallenged, and found Mr Ridwan’s explanations ‘utterly unconvincing’.

Deputy president Masson was satisfied that Mr Ridwan’s use of ‘crude, offensive, derogatory and inappropriate language’ directed towards his fellow team members constituted serious misconduct. He thereby found that it constituted a valid reason for dismissal.

The fact that Mr Ridwan was advised of, and given an opportunity to respond to, the misconduct allegations in various meetings and in the final meeting on 29 August 2017 proved he was notified of the reasons for dismissal in ‘plain and clear terms’.

When considering other relevant matters, Commissioner Masson found that Coles had given enough thought to Mr Ridwan’s 21 years of service when they only issued him a warning at the first meeting. The commission was satisfied Coles had taken the necessary steps to ascertain the nature of Mr Ridwan’s bipolar condition and that there was nothing to suggest he wasn’t aware of his behaviour.

The commission was satisfied there was a valid reason for Mr Ridwan’s dismissal and there were no other factors which would make the termination unfair.

Mr Ridwan’s application was dismissed.

Ridwan Ridwan v Coles Supermarkets Australia Pty Ltd (U2017/10105)



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