Economy

Boss fined for threatening and swearing at staff member

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Australia’s Workplace Ombudsman has warned that the “f” word has no place in workplace negotiations, and swearing at staff can constitute bullying.

Australia’s Workplace Ombudsman has warned that the “f” word has no place in workplace negotiations, and swearing at staff can constitute bullying.

The warning comes after the Workplace Ombudsman prosecuted the operator of a Donut King franchise in the Federal Magistrates Court for allegedly trying to force a senior staff member to sign an Australian Workplace Agreement using threats and bawdy language.

The case was brought against Jim Martinoski and his sister Sonia Martinoska, co-directors of Sweets For You Pty Ltd, operator of the Donut King franchise at Melbourne’s Greensborough Plaza shopping centre.

The court heard that at a staff meeting in February 2007, Jim Martinoski threatened to cut a staff member’s hours if she did not sign an AWA on the table in front of the employee, and said words to the effect of “if you don’t sign this, your hours will be cut to 15 hours a week”.

The court also heard that Jim Martinoski said to her: “As for you asking for your f—ing payslips, we’re not going anywhere, so you don’t have to keep f—ing asking for them.” He then said: “If it was up to me, I would close the shop for a week, sack everyone and rehire… people who do care about my business.”

The court was told that the woman did not sign the AWA, and several days later received a text message from Sonia Martinoska saying her hours had been cut from around 35 to 15 hours a week.

Federal Magistrate Philip Burchardt fined the company $12,000 for breaching the Workplace Relations Act.

“This was bullying conduct against an employee who plainly felt it to be offensive and oppressive, because she resigned almost immediately thereafter,” he said in his six-page judgement.

“This threat made by Mr Martinoski was made in anger and on the spur of the moment. Nonetheless (his) language and conduct at the time of the threat were offensive and bullying.

“While Mr Martinoski denies that he ever intended to cut (the employee’s) hours of work, the fact is that he made a very clear threat to do so and his sister sent a message which, ostensibly, put that threat into effect.”

Workplace Ombudsman executive director Michael Campbell said he hoped the $12,000 fine would be a significant general deterrent to other employers from behaving in the same manner.

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