An employee who was dismissed because he posted a sexually suggestive (and grossly defamatory) image on his Facebook page falsely attributing the conduct depicted as that of two work colleagues has lost an unfair dismissal case.
“Mr Renton’s conduct displayed an appalling lack of judgement and concern for the effect making such a post might have on his two colleagues. To the extent that Mr Renton gave some thought to whether Ms Keown might be offended by the post, he decided to proceed with the post………………
By making the post, Mr Renton affected the health and safety of his work colleagues. Mr Christie has sought assistance through the employee assistance program at Bendigo Health and Ms Keown was distressed both by the post and the fear that she may be thought less of at work if she was the one who made the complaint. On this, I should make clear that I accept the explanation given by Ms Keown of her reasons for communicating with Ms Renton – that she disliked conflict and she sought to maintain relationships at work (remembering that Ms Renton is in the same workplace).
Whilst offence may well be in the eye of the beholder, in this case Mr Christie was offended. Objectively viewed, I am satisfied that he had grounds for such offence. Further, the conduct of Mr Renton in this case has spilled into the workplace. His reference to the slamming occurring at work adds an additional layer to the inappropriateness of his conduct that cannot be ignored. His actions have had a detrimental effect on two of his colleagues
I have not discounted the evidence of Mr Christie as to his reaction to the incident because of his admission that he lied to Mr Renton when asked around 7 August 2016 if he had complained about the post or sorbolene cream. Mr Christie’s response to Mr Renton is understandable but does not raise issues of the credibility of his evidence in these proceedings.
Mr Renton, by his actions, exposed Mr Christie and Ms Keown to humiliation and potential ridicule at work. The professionalism and appropriate standards of conduct of their co-workers must be relied on to ensure this does not occur. His actions were crass, careless and showed an absence of judgement.
It is not necessary that I find the conduct of Mr Renton to be serious misconduct. The matter I must determine is if Mr Renton’s conduct, however it might be described, provides a valid reason for his dismissal. Sharp v BCS Infrastructure Support Pty Limited,  FWCFB 1033 at -; O’Connell v Wesfarmers Kleenheat Gas Pty Ltd, t/a Kleenheat Gas  FWCFB 8205 at - as cited in Titan Plant Hire Pty Ltd v Van Malsen,  FWCFB 5520 at -.”
Renton v Bendigo Health Care Group (2016) FWC 9098 delivered 30 December 2016 per Bissett C