Sacked for dobbing in drink-driving boss

A WOMAN who was sacked for making "disparaging comments" after dobbing in her drink-driving boss has been awarded more than $2500 in compensation by the Fair Work Commission.

Hayley Bond was sacked from Tweed Heads carpet and flooring business Andersens in August last year after reporting her boss, franchise owner Bob Green, to the company's chief executive.

The Fair Work Commission heard that in November 2016, Ms Bond observed her boss "showing signs of intoxication such as slurred speech, confusion and forgetfulness in his speech, and being unable to walk properly".

She became concerned when he "commenced driving the branded company van to Brunswick Heads to perform a measure and quote" and contacted the head office, who then contacted police.

When stopped for a roadside breath test, he returned a blood alcohol reading of 0.11, and his driving licence was suspended.

In a separate incident in July 2017, Ms Bond reported her boss to the company head office after he again appeared "very intoxicated ... with an unsteady walk, slurred speech and exhibiting signs of confusion" as he left for the bank to withdraw staff wages.

When he returned from the bank, "he proceeded to the sofa in the kitchenette area and slept for approximately two hours". Ms Bond took a picture of him on her phone and sent the picture by text to Andersen's chief executive Brian Cooper, who "dropped everything" to drive to the store to speak with Mr Green.

Forming the view that Mr Green was intoxicated, his wife was contacted to pick him up and drive him home and Mr Cooper began "actions to terminate the franchising agreement".

Mr Green, who denied being intoxicated, provided Fair Work with a letter from a neurologist confirming he suffered from a medical condition called "Dumping Syndrome", related to bypass surgery, that "may present similar effects to those of inebriation".

He told Fair Work that if an employee thought he was intoxicated while driving, he would have preferred if they called his wife, who would have contacted him to say, "You've been notified as intoxicated. Get off the road."

At a staff meeting in early August, Mr Green told Ms Bond and the company's two other employees that he had "a little bit of drama unfolding" and head office was "aiming to close this store down".

"There's been a breach within us ... as in referring information to certain parties in head office, um, about myself, ah - a lot of it very unfactual, um, to the point where, um, that is a violation of the employment code," he said, according to the transcript.

"All I can say is that, ah, someone, somewhere, has been telling some fibs, untrue, and ah, I'm having to fight a battle on it, OK? So what happens from this point forward? Um - I'm not going to discuss it with any staff because I physically cannot trust anyone."

The following week, Ms Bond was summarily dismissed. "Dear Hayley, as discussed, we have reviewed your performance and behaviour and, regrettably, confirm that your employment will be terminated," Mr Green wrote in an email.

"On several occasions you have made disparaging comments about the business and the owner of the business. Accordingly, we confirm that your employment with us is terminated effective immediately."

In its response to Ms Bond's unfair dismissal application, Mr Green accused her of leaking private information to people outside the business, "bullying" staff and spreading "fabricated stories" to a number of people including Andersens head office.

"The level of damage caused by these actions has become non-repairable to the point that legal action has commenced," he said.

Fair Work heard that Mr Green's company Wynbob Pty Ltd, which had not traded since selling its franchise back to Andersens in November, had spent between $40,000-$50,000 in legal fees, some "for the purposes of attempting to 'sue' some people", including Ms Bond.

In finding in Ms Bond's favour, Fair Work Commissioner Jennifer Hunt said whether Mr Green "was intoxicated or not, or whether he was suffering the effects of his medical condition" was "not necessary for the Commission to determine".

"Ms Bond held a view that Mr Green was intoxicated, and she reported her concerns to Mr Cooper," she said.

"Mr Cooper's evidence was that he had a lawful right to enter the premises, and he did so. I do not accept that Ms Bond reported her concerns for malicious reasons or in pursuit of a personal grudge."

Ms Hunt said it appeared "that Mr Green was most upset that the incident was reported to Andersens' head office, as opposed to being directly reported to the police".

"He considered that the reporting of the concerns led to risk of the business with the franchisor," she said. "In all of the circumstances, the subsequent knowledge that Ms Bond reported her concerns to Andersens relevant to Mr Green's conduct does not constitute a valid reason for the dismissal.

"For the benefit of relevant road users at the time, Ms Bond was well within her rights to report Mr Green's conduct, and thankfully she did so. I do not accept that Ms Bond reported her concerns for malicious reasons or in pursuit of a personal grudge."

In March, Ms Hunt ordered the company to pay Ms Bond the $2565.18 in compensation plus superannuation. Last month, Fair Work Deputy President Peter Sams dismissed an appeal by Wynbob, finding Mr Green had "not established an arguable case with reasonable prospects of success".