It is seemingly a licence to behave badly at office parties – and keep your job. The bad news for Australians is that such parties are likely to become sober affairs.
An employment tribunal has ruled that a man who sexually harassed female colleagues and told his bosses to “f*** off” at a Christmas function was unfairly dismissed, in part because unlimited quantities of alcohol were served.
The employee has not been named, but he was a team leader with a road-building company. He had two “stubbies” (short bottles of beer) before the party, then “about” eight more beers and a vodka and coke.
According to Fairfax Media, he told a company director and a senior project manager to “f*** off”. He also asked a colleague: “Who the f*** are you? What do you even do here?”
After the party, he and some of his colleagues proceeded to a bar, where he kissed one woman on the mouth, later telling her: “I’m going to go home and dream about you tonight”.
While waiting for a taxi home, the man told another female colleague: “My mission tonight is to find out what colour knickers you have on.”
She replied: “They are white. Touch my skirt and I’ll kill you.” He was sacked when he returned to work in January.
The Fair Work Commission ruled, however, that employers cannot insist on standards of conduct being maintained at parties if the alcohol flows freely.
The Commission’s vice-president, Adam Hatcher, said there was no evidence that the employee had engaged in bad behaviour in the workplace. He called his conduct at the party “isolated and aberrant in nature”.
He also described the man’s intoxication as a “mitigating factor”, saying it was “contradictory and self-defeating for an employer to... allow the unlimited service of free alcohol” while expecting staff to comply with usual standards of behaviour.
Mr Hatcher concluded: “If alcohol is supplied in such a manner, it becomes entirely predictable that some individuals will consume an excessive amount and behave inappropriately.”Reuse content