“Unreasonable and belligerent” Sydney Trains Employee Loses Unfair Dismissal Claim, Ordered To Pay Costs

Published October 14, 2019 (last updated July 17, 2020) Author: Nicholas Hartman

A long serving Sydney Trains employee has been ordered to pay costs due to prolonging an unsuccessful unfair dismissal claim. The ex-employee was terminated after two serious safety incidents.

The employee who was dismissed in 2016, was involved in two safety incidents on the Illawarra line in 2015, according to reports from The Australian.

The incidents involved missing a warning light and failing to give adequate warning to workers to “jump out of the way” of an approaching train.

The second incident involved a worker being forced to run out of the way of an approaching train that passed over the spot where he was working just two seconds earlier.

Not only did the employee deny all allegations during the hearing, the employee also blamed his colleagues and Sydney Trains for the incidents and refused to accept responsibility for his actions. The hearing found that the team leader rejected generous offers to settle including an offer of reinstatement.

Fair Work deputy president Peter Sams found the worker’s demands for reinstatement “utterly unthinkable” given his refusal to accept any responsibility for the incidents.

Given the safety-critical nature of his role, Mr Sams said he could not be confident that the ex-employee would take his responsibilities seriously.

“His belligerent denial of any wrongdoing is so gravely concerning, that I am satisfied the employer’s trust and confidence in him has been permanently destroyed,’’ Sams said.

Over the 14-month period prior to the hearing, Sydney Trains made a number of settlement proposals to the ex-employee. The offer included compensation of $70,000 and free train travel.

Sydney Trains also offered the ex-employee an alternative position in head office. He considered this position would mean he would “contribute nothing”, which Sams said he found “somewhat condescending”.

In addition, Sams found the ex-employee’s insistence that he wasn’t to blame baffling even after Sydney Trains delivered findings of investigations into the two incidents to the ex-employee.

“In light of the …. reports, it should have been reasonably apparent to Mr Singh that complete exoneration and full reinstatement, in these circumstances, was most unlikely,’’ he said. “A settlement amount in excess of the compensation cap, even assuming he was wholly successful, should have been an active consideration for Mr Singh at that point.”

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