Man Can't Be Fired For Sexually Harassing Colleague At Party Because He'd Been Drinking
The Debrief: The Fair Work Commission said the amount of alcohol available at the Christmas party was a 'mitigating factor'
An international employment tribunal has said employers can’t expect workers to uphold normal standards of office behaviour at an office party where they supply revellers with bucket loads of alcohol.
Don’t judge us – our initial reaction to this news was unadulterated joy. Office parties are a minefield of sozzled socially embarrassing slip-ups and let’s be honest, it is probably down to the heady mix of booze, nerves and the fact that sometimes you really don’t know these people you’re mind-fighting for the cocktail sausages all that well. And that’s kind of a scary situation. So, surely it seems fair not to get fired for your jittery drunken antics.
That time when you tripped, fell and chucked your Barcardi and coke all over your boss’ tailored suit, hiccoughing effusive apologies as you scrambled for napkins? Harmless? Yes. Grounds for being fired? Certainly not.
But what happens when you start acting like a total drunken douchebag, beyond the realms of acceptable behaviour?
Well, one man in Australia has done just that. The unnamed employee of Leighton Boral Amey Joint Venture (a team leader, no less) caused carnage at a Christmas office party last year. Not only did he tell his boss to ‘fuck off’, he also put the charm offensive on a female colleague, saying, ‘my mission tonight is to find out what colour knickers you have on.’
Incidentally, she replied, ‘They are white. Touch my skirt and I will kill you.’ HURRAH. Disclaimer: We don’t condone killing pervy men, we just think this is a great response.
The saga continues. After planting a kiss on another female colleague’s mouth Mr Employee Of The Year proceeded to inform her that he was ‘going to go home and dream about you tonight.’ Following the party, he was reportedly overheard calling a third female employee ‘a stuck-up bitch’. Who said small talk is dead?
This man was, of course, fired for the blatant sexual harassment. But The Fair Work Commission disagrees with that: it ruled that the man didn’t deserve to be dismissed because he was drunk. The Commission’s vice-president, Adam Hatcher, said the man’s intoxication was a ‘mitigating factor’ for his behaviour and argued that because he was usually an up-standing bloke in the office environment he could be forgiven for this booze-fuelled debauchery.
Mr Hatcher explained: ‘If alcohol is supplied in such a manner, it becomes entirely predictable that some individuals will consume an excessive amount and behave inappropriately.’
For predictable, should we read acceptable!?
Should we infer that guys (and girls) can behave abhorrently towards colleagues, friends, whoever, in any situation where they’re given free alcohol? What does that say about our self-control and our ability to take responsibility for our own actions? Are we allowed a get-out-of-jail-free card every time we have one G&T too many? Well, no, of course not.
Because, although everyone understands that alcohol can be a mind-altering substance and alcohol abuse is dangerous, we have to accept that we are all adults here and it’s not our first WKD and we cannot blame employers for giving us the choice to drink too much and act like a tool. And that’s the crux. It was this man’s choice to drink too much and it was his choice to abuse his boss and it was his choice to sexually harass those women.
The tribunal heard the man consumed 10 beers and a vodka coke. So, yeah, he might have been legless. But is that any excuse? The implication of Hatcher’s ruling is as follows: anyone who drinks to excess at any private party has free reign to verbally abuse and sexually harass other party members without care nor consequence. Which sounds like a shit party, if you ask us.
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At work? With your gran?
You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating