The Australian, February 8, 2017:
A female union delegate sacked for allegedly bullying and harassing employees has lost her unfair dismissal claim after the Fair Work Commission found she engaged in misconduct.
Rail Tram and Bus Union delegate Samantha Rombola, was dismissed by South Australia’ s Rail Commissioner from her position as a passenger service assistant after an investigation upheld allegations of bullying and harassment. Many of the allegations focused on her conduct towards a female employee who she resented for getting a more prestigious job.
Ms Rombola was accused of making disrespectful comments to colleagues for almost two years about the female co-worker, calling her a “f. king bitch”, a f. king c. t” and asking “who was she rooting to get that job”.
Ms Rombola denied the claims and pursued legal action in the commission. But Commissioner Peter Hampton found her conduct between July 2013 and April 2015 in relation to the co-worker was disrespectful, rude and objectively unreasonable.
“The evidence supporting the findings of misconduct in this respect was strong, direct, consistent and largely unchallenged,’’ he said. “The conduct as demonstrated by the evidence was more than bad language. The tone and manner of the comments and the associated conduct was clearly unreasonable and properly described as serious bullying, even in a robust workplace where inappropriate language was common and tensions between employees were known to exist.
“There is no reliable evidence that the degree of serious behaviour that Ms Rombola exhibited towards (the co-worker) was common in the workplace.”
An allegation by the partner of her former husband that Ms Rombola revved her motor bike outside her house was not upheld. But the tribunal also found she acted disrespectfully towards a passenger and failed to comply with a reasonable direction.
Saying he preferred the evidence of the female co-worker, Mr Hampton said Ms Rombola’s complete denial that she made negative comments about her colleagues was not credible.
He found her extended use of a mobile phone on a train while on duty was “beyond reasonable” and represented conduct which was not appropriate”.
“I consider that some of the conduct of Ms Rombola … was deliberate and inappropriate and was misconduct,’’ he said.
“The conduct as found by the commission was not consistent with the relevant policies and the reasonable expectations within the workplace.
“I also find that there was a pattern of conduct which undermined the necessary trust and confidence in the workplace and significantly impacted upon working relationships with management and with other employees. The absence of genuine recognition of the inappropriateness of that behaviour or any contrition compounds the seriousness of the conduct.”