Worker Fired for Accessing Manager’s Email
The dismissal of an employee who misused his employer’s computer system has been deemed ‘not harsh or unjust’ and has been held to amount to serious misconduct.
The employer, Alfred Health, claimed its former employee, Anastasios Margelis:
- had accessed his manager’s email without authority to do so
- and had engaged in an online written conversation with another employee – which contained offensive comments about a manager and another female employee. Specifically, the conversation made reference to sexually assaulting a female worker and spoke violently about one of the managers.
In this case the Fair Work Commission held that in its view, based on the evidence, it was reasonable to terminate Margelis’ employment. The access attempts to the manager’s email originated from Margelis’ home router and that in itself was a serious breach of conduct. However his participation in the conversation was the real issue as it was both discriminatory and invoked violence and because the conversation remained on the company’s computer system it had the potential to come to light and affect the safety and welfare of other employees Despite the fact Margelis did not initiate the conversation, even as a participant, the Commission found it was reasonable for Alfred Health to rely on such conduct in making its decision to terminate Margelis’ employment.
The case serves as a good reminder to all employers that the online conduct of their employees (given the appropriate circumstances) may provide legitimate grounds for disciplinary action, including termination of employment.
It is important that you have clear workplace guidelines and procedures in place to ensure you will have appropriate grounds to stand on if cases such as this occur.
If you need advice on establishing proper workplace guidelines or in handling a case of employee misconduct please contact our experienced Employment Lawyers on (02) 9635 6422.