A self-proclaimed Nazi electrician who wrote “inexcusable” text messages to an apprentice has been ordered to pay him $11,400 after he was dismissed for failing to dob-in a former colleague.
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) ruled Brisbane-based small-business owner Simon Hickey unfairly dismissed an apprentice when he sent him an ultimatum via text message last year, asking for information about alleged theft by a former colleague in exchange for keeping his job.
After developing suspicions one of his former employees stole from him, Hickey sent a series of abusive messages to the unfairly dismissed apprentice, threatening to fire him if he did not provide information about the alleged conduct.
Hickey also alleged the unfairly dismissed apprentice carried out a cash job with his former colleague without approval, using Hickey’s vehicle and tools.
In what Commission deputy president Ingrid Asbury described as “inexcusable” communication, Hickey texted “info or your job by 4 pm” to the apprentice, subsequently alleging he was also a thief.
Further, Hickey threatened to “hinder and interrupt any apprenticeship” the employee might try to undertake in Brisbane and dismissed the prospect of a Fair Work claim against him.
“Here’s the number for Fair Work Australia 13 13 94. Do you know how many calls they get per day? Boo Hoo this cunt fired me and he wasn’t paying me,” Hickey said.
“Do you know what these cunt do about it? Nothing unless it’s a company worth prosecuting, they know they’ll get nothing from me.”
Hickey argued the ultimatum did not constitute a termination and the apprentice actually resigned because he did not comply and later returned the company vehicle.
But Asbury determined it was “inconceivable” an employee who received such messages could have thought they weren’t terminated.
“No employee should ever be subjected to the threats and abuse meted out by Mr Hickey in his text messages,” Asbury said.
“That an employer would subject an employee, much less an apprentice, to such language beggars belief.”
“It may have been reasonable for Mr Hickey to request that … [the employee] provide the address of the cash job and for Mr Hickey to indicate that failure to do so could result in adverse consequences for … [the employee’s] future employment,” Asbury said.
“However, the request was couched in language so threatening and offensive that … [the employee] did not have an option to comply.”
“[The worker] would have been required to return to work for Mr Hickey in circumstances where Mr Hickey had treated him in a manner that no employee should be required to endure,” Asbury continued.
Hickey, owner of Smerff Electrical, is a self-proclaimed “Nazi Sparkii” and in 2017 was outed as the sole corporate sponsor of neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer by the Brisbane Times.
His company logo features a miss-appropriated image of character Pepe the Frog wearing an SS uniform and standing in front of Auschwitz.
The business owner has posted anti-semitic diatribes to his company’s website, a fact which became relevant during the case when his human-resource-management capabilities were being considered.
Hickey tendered an employment contract he claims was signed by the apprentice, although this was disputed by the dismissed worker.
The contract states: “You will be paid Weekly at the rate of $15 per hour. If you are unhappy with your wage, you can fuck off. Nobody is forcing you to work here.”
Hickey said he found the contract on the internet.
Asbury said she has never encountered a small-business owner with “such a deplorable attitude to human resources management”, deeming his ability to use the internet and “cite defamation law in some detail” as evidence his HR skills don’t mitigate his behaviour.
Hickey was ordered to pay the $11,400 — equivalent to 12-weeks wages — within 21 days of January 14, 2019.
SmartCompany contacted Hickey for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.