Unfair dismissal claim misses the bus

Cases

Unfair dismissal claim misses the bus

A school bus driver who was sacked after parents complained he had bullied students and driven unsafely has lost his unfair dismissal claim.

A school bus driver who was sacked after parents complained he had bullied students and driven unsafely has lost his unfair dismissal claim.

The Fair Work Commission found the employer had complied with the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code.

Facts of case


Peter Anderson was employed as a school bus driver for about four years, by a company that had three employees. He was dismissed for serious misconduct after the employer received a complaint from the parent of a student alleging that he had bullied and intimidated the student. 

He had previously received verbal warnings following earlier complaints, which included the following:
  • verbal abuse of students and their parents
  • erratic driving, including exceeding speed limits, braking suddenly (causing students to fall over inside the bus and injure themselves)
  • staring at children through the rear view mirror for lengthy periods and questioning them in “an unfair and unfriendly way”
  • driving away from bus stops before passengers were able to sit down, causing them to fall into their seats.
The final one of these complaints was made in writing and referred to several of the above transgressions. The manager (Mr Melbin) met with Mr Anderson and initially offered to reduce his working hours from 20 to eight per week and confine him to driving afternoons only (so children would not be scared to use the bus to go to school in the first place), but Mr Anderson refused and denied the substance of the complaints.

Mr Melbin believed this refusal left him with no option but to dismiss Mr Anderson, which he did. 

Decision


The employer claimed it had complied with the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code when it dismissed Mr Anderson. 

The FWC assessed the employer’s conduct against the code and found as follows:
  • Mr Melbin genuinely believed Mr Anderson’s conduct amounted to serious misconduct justifying dismissal. It was also based on reasonable grounds, that being multiple complaints of a similar nature.
  • His initial offer to vary Anderson’s working hours did not conflict with his genuine belief – it was an attempt to find a more compassionate solution.
  • Mr Anderson had not raised any matters with Mr Melbin to give reason to doubt or revise his views. 
  • Mr Anderson’s misconduct caused a risk to the health and safety of the bus passengers and a serious risk to the reputation of the employer.
Therefore, the dismissal decision was based on reasonable grounds and compliant with the code.

Mr Anderson’s claim was dismissed.

The bottom line: For claims involving dismissal by small businesses, the FWC will look first at whether an employer has complied with the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code. In cases of summary dismissal, it will look at the evidence to assess whether the employer had reasonable grounds for believing the employee had to be dismissed.

Read the judgment

 
Post details