Work relationship sours after spat between mates

Cases

Work relationship sours after spat between mates

An argument between mates that ended in an unfair dismissal claim has been resolved in favour of the employer.

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A casual employee has lost his unfair dismissal case after a tribunal ruled his employer had not terminated the employment relationship.

Background


Gregory Cooper worked for an excavation and landscaping business as a casual employee.

The business was owned by Anthony Murphy, and staffed by his daughter Antoinette and son Keith.

Mr Cooper and Keith Murphy had been friends for 20 years and regularly worked together in the business. They had plenty of arguments during that time, all of which they managed to resolve.

However, an argument in February 2017 resulted in Mr Cooper's employment coming to an end.

Arguments


Mr Cooper said the argument stemmed from his:
  • being unable to work on a weekend due to childcare commitments, and
  • needing to finish work early on Fridays.
He claimed Keith Murphy was annoyed and frustrated by the situation and told him "you're done, finish up this arvo."

Mr Cooper said he later phoned Anthony Murphy and was told "Keith has made the decision to dismiss you..."

Keith Murphy told the Commission that he was frustrated, irritated and angry about Mr Cooper's attitude to working on a weekend. However, he said the issue regarding leaving work early was "not the fact that Mr Cooper had to leave early on a Friday, but that Mr Cooper regularly failed to drive his car to site on a Friday". This meant he had to be transported back to the office, which resulted in Mr Murphy losing income he could have otherwise earned.

He denied stating that Mr Cooper should "finish up this arvo", and instead maintained he said words to the effect of "that's it. We are done."

He pointed out that he had no authority to hire or fire employees.

Mr Murphy senior told the Commission that his conversation with Mr Cooper ended with him agreeing to a two-week timeframe to arrange a 'workable situation'. He said he at not time dismissed him, or gave him that impression.

Ruling


Commissioner Tony Saunders preferred the evidence of Anthony Murphy.

He accepted that Mr Murphy senior genuinely believed that the dispute between Mr Cooper and his son would be resolved between them, as it had been in the past.

Mr Murphy said Mr Cooper was good at his job, albeit unreliable,  and that he would be happy to take him back as an employee at any time.

The Commissioner found no action had been taken that was either intended to bring the employment relationship to an end, or had the probable result of bringing it to an end.

Mr Cooper had also not been forced to resign from his employment.

The unfair dismissal application was dismissed.

Gregory Cooper v A &AExcavations & Landscapes Pty Ltd (U2017/2629) [2017] FWC4812

 
 
 
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