As regular readers will already know, I’m not a big fan of the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

There are many reasons why I (and many others) have lost confidence in the Commission’s ability to fulfil its remit, with Commission Vice President Lawler’s recent 9 month absence (on fully-paid sick leave calculated on his $435,000 annual salary) being just the most recent blow to the Commission’s reputation.

However, a recent decision of another of the Commission’s Vice Presidents – VP Hatcher – has done nothing to assist employer confidence in the nation’s employment tribunal.

The case in question involved a manager of a well-known business who behaved rather inappropriately at the company’s Christmas party last December.

Over the course of the event – and in the hours immediately after the official party wrapped up – this manager swore at two of his fellow managers and allegedly sexually harassed two other female employees. Quite a party it seems.

As you would rightly expect, the powers that be hauled him to the office in the days following the party to deal with his misbehaviour. However, it wasn’t until business resumed again in January this year that the company confirmed this employee’s contract was being terminated.

Given the ability of almost everyone to lodge an ‘unfair dismissal’ claim these days, it’s hardly surprising that this aggrieved ex-employee did just that. What is surprising, though, is the ultimate finding by Vice President Hatcher that he had in fact been unfairly dismissed.

According to the Vice President, the events of that night were partly a result of the company providing unlimited drinks to their employees at the party. The fact the company had gone out of its way to remind employees before the event of the importance of proper and respectful behaviour apparently wasn’t enough.

Furthermore, the fact the company also has an ongoing duty to protect its employees from sexual harassment also wasn’t enough to offset perceived problems with the Company’s dismissal process.

We’re now waiting to learn whether the Vice President will order the company to reinstate their sacked employee. If he is reinstated, I’d advise the company against arranging a welcome back party.

I can’t help but wonder what the Commission’s own Christmas parties must be like? I imagine lots of uncomfortable-looking people in suits standing around sipping awkwardly at their sparkling water while trying their level best to look as though they’re having a good time.

Doesn’t sound very jolly to me…