Crossing the Line

Last Updated Jun 3, 2008 8:25 PM EDT

A Coles store manager, who was employed by the company for 24 years, was recently dismissed following allegations that she pulled the hair of a subordinate, swore at a sales representative in an abusive manner and conducted herself inappropriately when she engaged in physical contact with a male colleague in her office. An internal investigation proved the complaints and her employment was terminated. A subsequent unfair dismissal claim was unsuccessful. After accepting that the allegations against the employee were well-founded, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) held that she was not unfairly dismissed.

The Commissioner said the hair pulling incident, where the manager grabbed a worker by her ponytail and pulled her to a display bin was "clearly an incident of bullying, if not physical assault." With regards to swearing at a sales rep, the Commissioner said that this treatment "demonstrated a lack of respect, breached any normal standards of professional courtesy and etiquette, had the potential to damage [Coles'] reputation both in the market place and the community ... and was affronting and offensive."

This case highlights that employers should not tolerate this kind of behaviour from their employees. Regardless of an employee's length of service, dismissal may be warranted.

Sinapi v Coles Supermarkets Australia Pty Ltd [2008] AIRC 405

  • Robert Gerrish

    Robert Gerrish is a coach, author and professional speaker and the founder of Flying Solo (, the Australian online community for solo business owners.