A BP worker sacked for sharing a Hitler parody video with a private Facebook group has lost his unfair dismissal claim.
The Fair Work Commission found that a reasonable person would consider the video “inappropriate and offensive”.
BP worker sacked for creating parody video
Scott Tracey started working for BP refinery at Kwinana in Western Australia in 2012 as a Process Technician.
In September 2018, after more than a year of protracted and tense pay negotiations, Tracey’s wife created the video.
She called it ‘Hitler Parody EA Negotiations’.
Hitler parody videos are one of the most popular memes on the internet.
They allow users to add their own subtitles to a clip from the 2004 German film ‘Downfall’, about Adolf Hitler’s final hours.
The original clip shows Hitler responding in a highly agitated and aggressive manner to advice from his Generals.
The captions added by Ms Tracey for her video made reference to events associated with the EBA negotiations.
Mr Tracey shared the video to a private Facebook group of friends and colleagues.
He subsequently showed it to other workmates at BP using a company computer.
BP said video was offensive and depicted representatives as Nazis
When BP became aware of the existence of the video it launched an investigation, which concluded that Mr Tracey had been:
“…involved in creating an offensive and inappropriate video depicting BP representatives involved in the current negotiations as Nazis.”
In her evidence to the Commission, BP’s human resources partner Sharon Rudderham said:
“The video appeared to depict a number of BPRK employees as Nazi’s and referenced very specific information related to what was happening at BPRK at the time and the ongoing BPRK enterprise agreement negotiations.”
Mr Tracey insisted the video did not identify BP or any individual, and that he did not intended to offend anyone with the video, describing it as ‘humourous’.
BP didn’t buy his arguments, and sacked him for breaching company policies.
Fair Work Commission deputy president Melanie Binet rejected Mr Tracey’s application.
Ms Binet said she is “satisfied that when viewed in context that a reasonable person would consider the Hitler video inappropriate and offensive.”
Union says BP worker sacking ‘ludicrous’
Australian Workers Union national secretary Daniel Walton described Mr Tracey’s sacking as “ludicrous”.
“Hitler Downfall videos are a joke, but the decision to sack a worker over one is not,” he said.
“If you said ‘bugger’ in front of your boss on a work site they would likely not bat an eyelid.
“However, if they’d never heard the term before and they looked up the literal meaning they might be appalled.
“Hitler Downfall parody videos are not about comparing anyone to actual Nazis.
“It’s about depicting a high-stress group conflict situation and overlaying details about a current event.”
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Dismissals ‘R’ Us said the case is a reminder of the perils of social media.
“It amazes me how many workers have come unstuck as as result of posting something stupid on social media,” he said.
“Your social media accounts are not private, they are a public forum, and if you post something you become a publisher, and your boss can use it against you.
Heffernan advised workers not to post anything that shows their current or former employer in a negative light.
“Hitler parody videos are hilarious, but nevertheless, the employer didn’t think so in this case, and the Commission agreed, and consequently, Mr Tracey lost his job.”
If you have been unfairly dismissed from employment, you may be entitled to compensation or reinstatement.
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