Enraged worker explodes: you 'f***ing buffoons'


Enraged worker explodes: you 'f***ing buffoons'

A Murdoch University employee who called the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) a “bunch of f***ing buffoons” was justifiably dismissed, the Fair Work Commission has ruled.


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A Murdoch University employee who called the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) a “bunch of f***ing buffoons” was justifiably dismissed, the Fair Work Commission has ruled.


Stephen Hayes, an interactive producer, was fired in December 2016 for sending two expletive-laden emails to the ABS statistician. He had been angered by the bureau's threat of a fine for not completing the census.

After the first email on 5 August 2016, an immediate response was sent to Murdoch University regarding Mr Haye’s behaviour.

Another email was sent by Mr Hayes on 10 August, telling the statistician to “please send me a fine, PLEASE, I really want to have my day in court now you bunch of f***ing buffoons!”

Mr Hayes then forwarded both emails to four external parties with the forward note “FYI just for a laugh.”

Complaints from ABS

Murdoch University initiated an investigation into Mr Haye’s conduct following complaints from the ABS. He was placed on a six-month suspension with full pay.

The university found Mr Haye’s behaviour to be in breach of its code of conduct and he was terminated in December 2016. He received a further four weeks' pay.

Mr Hayes claimed his behaviour was not conducive to serious misconduct and the dismissal was therefore unfair.

He maintained the use of his work email was unintentional and he was not attempting to bring the university into disrepute. He further alleged he was forced into a meeting with the university without a support person present. 

Was the dismissal fair?

Section 387 of the Fair Work Act stipulates eight conditions that make firing an employee unfair.

The employer needs to have a valid reason and to notify the employee of this reason. The employee needs to be provided with an opportunity to respond and be allowed a support person in all related meetings. The size of the organisation and its relative procedures plus the capacity of the HR department are also taken into account.


Deputy president Bull ruled Mr Hayes was fairly dismissed. His behaviour was in breach of the university’s code of conduct and electronic messaging guidelines, and he was informed of this breach.

He was also afforded the opportunity to voice his side of the story, with support persons present on most occasions. The commission also found the conduct of the university when dealing with the dismissal to be sound.

“I have no difficulty in arriving at the conclusion that the sending of the emails by Mr Hayes provided the university with a valid reason for dismissal. The misconduct constituted the use of language that was vulgar and offensive and was contained in an email identifying the university and Mr H’s role at the university.

“While the language used by Mr Hayes may be common vernacular in some circles, when reduced to writing and addressed to a specific recipient not personally known to Mr H, such language has an element of intentional abuse and cannot be regarded under any circumstances as acceptable language.”

Stephen Hayes v Murdoch University (U2016/15324)[2017] FWC 2174

This article was written by Chloe Hava.
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