FWC dismisses forklift burnout case

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has rejected an unfair dismissal claim filed by an ex-employee of a Sydney-based printer, fired after being filmed doing a burnout on a forklift.

The sacked workers mother appeared at the FWC, contending that her son was treated unfairly, as the fellow employee that filmed the incident did not face any repercussions.

The application did not call for the ex-employee to be reinstated in the job, as ‘it would be too uncomfortable for him to return to the workplace’, but instead was seeking a cash settlement.

The video of the event, seen by Australian Printer, clearly shows the ex-employee doing multiple donuts in the forklift outside, then pouring solvents and doing more donuts. After this the ex-employee breaks glass bottles over the skid marks, driving over the glass with a pallet on the front of the forklift, and attempts to wash it with a hose. At the end of the video, the former employee shovels dirt from a nearby patch of grass over the skid marks.

The business owner and director, who did not wish to be named, is 67-years old and vision impaired. He says that the whole process was a waste of taxpayers money, his time, and that he has never had any issues like this in his 40 years of working, including 20 years with the current business.

He explains,“There was smoke coming off the wheels. It is a forklift with a hot motor, and spilling solvent all around the place, it could have caught alight.

“He admitted he had done it, but he said the person that had filmed it was involved and they should have also been terminated. We had no evidence that he had done the same though.

“The whole thing was just stupid.

“I want people to see what is happening out there. Small companies like us get punished for trying to do the right thing.

“I had to put new tires on the forklift, that costs money, then there were the solvents used, then there is all the time out of the business to attend the hearings. It put my production manager out, as he had to travel into the city for the day and wait for the case to be heard.

“If I would have hired a solicitor, it would have cost a few thousand dollars.

“We are only a small organisation, every penny I spend comes out of my pocket. I have been in business for 40 years, and have had this company for the past 20 years. I have never had an unfair dismissal claim in my whole life before this started.

“I am 67 years old, I have managed a lot of people, worked in big companies, and have never had these issues. I respect the people who worked for me, and just expect that back.

“What we did was not an unfair dismissal, it was a waste of taxpayers money, our time, and the time of everyone involved. You have to sit there, wait, you have a commissioner, their clerk, and all the other people involved. This probably cost the taxpayer $10,000 for something so silly.”

The owner says the former employee had committed other poor behaviour at work, including breaking a colleagues nose in a fight while drunk and breaking a door during a fight at an office Christmas Party at the local bowling club. For him, the forklift offence was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

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