Employer ordered to pay $5 million for taking adverse action

In what is believed to be a record for an adverse action case in the Fair Work division, the Federal Court has ordered a company to pay more than $5.2 million in compensation, damages and penalties to a senior employee sacked after he made bullying complaints.

Justice Kerr found that the employee had established that by dismissing him, the company took adverse action against him because he exercised a workplace right when he complained multiple times about bullying.

Unlike unfair dismissal applications, compensation for breaches of the general protections in the Fair Work Act is not ‘capped’ at 6 months wages. Justice Kerr ordered the company to pay the former employee $2,825,000.00 for his future economic loss, $756,410 to compensate his forgone share options, $1,590,000 in damages for breach of contract, $10,000 in general damages and $47,000 in penalties.

All employers and senior managers involved in the hiring and firing of staff should take note of this decision. The penalties included a $7,000 penalty against the company's chief executive, who "twice rejected professional HR advice".

The Justice said: "In the end, [the chief executive's] choice was to stand with the bullies rather than the bullied.”

"To achieve effective deterrence, CEOs in like positions need to know that such temptations as he faced are to be resisted: and that there will be a not insubstantial price for failing to do so".

Roohizadegan v TechnologyOne Ltd (No 2) [2020] FCA 1407

Disclaimer: This summary is a guide only and is not legal advice. For more information on general protections, call NECA Legal (WA) Pty Ltd on (08) 6241 6129 or email necalegalwa@ecawa.org.au