The employee was sacked for making clients “uncomfortable”.
The employee was sacked for making clients “uncomfortable”.

Sacked for kissing 18yo client

A BANKING courier sacked for allegedly hugging and kissing young female employees at a client's clothing store said the conduct was due to "cheeky nature" and his "Italian heritage".

The 48-year-old Perth man filed an application for unfair dismissal after being sacked from cash collection business Secure Cash in July last year, following three separate complaints from clients over alleged inappropriate behaviour.

According to Fair Work Commission documents, the most serious complaint came from the clothing store, which said the courier acted unprofessionally and made two employees feel very uncomfortable.

"When will you be leaving your boyfriend so we can run away together?" he was alleged to have said to female staff. The store claimed said the man told staff they were good looking, asked one 18-year-old employee for her phone number, and told the young female employees that he had dated girls of their age.

The man denied making any such statements.

The client who made the second complaint told his employer that he was "a nice man but is making our staff feel very uncomfortable in store".

On one occasion when he came to collect the banking from the clothing store, the client said the courier told two team members that they had missed his birthday and asked, "Where is my kiss?", leaning over the counter and putting his cheek up to the girls' faces.

The complaint stated that while they kissed his cheek, the girls felt uncomfortable and pressured to do so. The store also said the man got physically close to the female employees, putting his arms around the waist of one staff member, putting his hand on another staff member's hip, and hugging employees when leaving.

The clothing store also referred to the courier "engaging in unprofessional and unprovoked conversations with staff while collecting deposits, and that he was staying talking for 20 minutes on occasions, which the staff tried to avoid".

According to Fair Work, the man "acknowledged that after getting to know the client's staff well he did hug the female staff on arriving and leaving the client's premises and they hugged him in return", and also "acknowledged that he may have put his arm on the hip of one of the employees but did not recall this event".

"[He] also accepted that he may have asked the female employees for a kiss due to his cheeky nature and tendency to joke around," Fair Work documents state.

"[His] explanation for this conduct was that as an Italian he was used to affection and showing affection. [He] said he was of the belief that the physical encounters were consensual and friendly, and had he thought otherwise, it would have ceased immediately.

"[He] said there was no sexual connotation in his conduct and at all times it was consensual and friendly."

Fair Work Commission deputy president Geoffrey Bull this week dismissed the man's unfair dismissal claim, despite finding that the sacking was "seriously lacking in procedural fairness".

Mr Bull said in view of the man's "admissions in respect to his physical contact with young female staff of a client of the respondent, I do not find that summary dismissal was harsh, unjust or unreasonable, once this conduct was brought to the attention of the respondent".

"This conclusion is reached having regard to the considerable age difference between [the courier] and the female employees," Mr Bull said.

"The explanation provided by [the man] of showing affection due to his Italian heritage falls short of justification for such behaviour towards otherwise unrelated persons. This is a complete and distinct difference from how one may conduct themselves with physical familiarity towards friends or in a family environment.

"If [he] did not know or appreciate that it is inappropriate asking 18-year-old females for a kiss and indulging in the practice of hugging as a greeting or goodbye, which may not be reciprocated willingly by much younger persons, he ought to."

 

frank.chung@news.com.au



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