An employee has been dismissed after a formal complaint was made about his behaviour while he was away on business. The employee was drinking at a bar when he called another patron a “bum”. The employer decided to terminate the employee as the company was concerned about the effect the employee’s conduct would have on the reputation of the company.

The Employment Relations Authority upheld the employee’s personal grievance claim for unjustified dismissal.

The ERA held that the employee’s conduct could not be said to have the potential to cause trouble for the employer’s business as the alleged misconduct occurred at a pub where all the patrons were drinking. The ERA also noted that there was evidence of pub banter including evidence that the patron had been acting cheekily towards the employee. Accordingly, the employer could not justifiably conclude that the taunting was serious misconduct.

The ERA ordered the employer to pay the employee $5,000 in compensation, however this figure was reduced by 50 per cent as a result of the employee’s contributory behaviour.