‘I won’t be vomiting at functions in the future’
“This is a wake-up call for me. I won’t be needing assistance or vomiting at functions in the future.”
But she strongly denied “heinous allegations” that she had made disparaging comments about other employees while drunk – including saying one “bats for the other side” – and had sexually harassed anyone.
Despite her denials, Ryan Wilks fired her for serious misconduct on the basis of witness statements from anonymous managers.
The company argued her behaviour caused a “serious and imminent risk” to its reputation and its contract because it took place in front of senior Opera House management, other contractors and members of the public.
It produced CCTV footage showing the female manager, at various times, passed out in a chair, assisted to go to the toilet, stumbling over a table and bending over and vomiting while her hair was held back.
Two anonymous witness statements also claimed the project manager had told the Opera House’s contracts manager “that’s okay, you can take advantage of me”.
But the project manager insisted she had told him “don’t let anyone take advantage of me”.
Commissioner Cambridge said he found it “difficult to accept” that just saying “you can take advantage of me”, which could be construed as an invitation for sex, was sexual harassment.
In any case, he found the evidence was “clear” that she had not said that.
Some form of discipline
During the hearing it was revealed that the contracts manager who was allegedly sexually propositioned had in fact denied such a thing happened to Ryan Wilks at the time.
The manager had gone even further and told Ryan Wilks that, even if she had sexually propositioned him, he likely would not have been offended given she was drunk.
The commissioner slammed Ryan Wilks “incomplete and truncated” investigation.
“Astonishingly, in respect to the allegation regarding any sexual propositioning … the employer knew that allegation to be false and yet it relied upon it as reason for dismissal,” the commissioner said.
He said there were grounds for “some form of disciplinary action” for the manager’s drunkenness but it was not serious or wilful enough to justify dismissal, let alone summary dismissal.
“On any reasonable and objective contemplation, a single act of drunkenness at an after work function which did not involve any abusive or aggressive behaviour, and for which no serious risk to the reputation or viability of the employer’s business could be established, would not represent misconduct that provided a sound, defensible and well-founded reason for dismissal.”
The commissioner found a significant injustice had occurred and ordered she be reinstated with orders for lost pay.