A bus driver sacked for asking an abusive passenger to get off has won her unfair dismissal claim.
The Fair Work Commission ordered the company to reinstate the “proud and caring bus driver’’ to her former role, with continuity of service and backpay.
Bus driver abused by passenger
Amie Logsdon worked for Surfside Buslines from April 2019 until her dismissal on 22 September 2021.
Six days earlier, a young adult male passenger stepped on to a bus driven by Logsdon.
The passenger didn’t pay his fair and sat in seats reserved for disabled passengers.
He also wore his face mask under his chin.
Logsdon asked the passenger to put his face mask on properly.
The passenger replied “Fuck off Karen”.
Logsdon then told him to get off the bus at the next stop, however, he refused to do so.
As a result, she contacted the company control room requesting for police to attend and told the other passengers to catch the next service.
The rude male passenger eventually got off the bus after stating that he was a law student and that the police would not come.
By the time they arrived, the passenger had caught another bus.
When the Queensland government introduced strict mask mandates on public transport, Surfside Buslines told staff:
“Frontline Staff are not expected to undertake any enforcement activities in relation to passengers not wearing a mask.”
Following an investigation, the company terminated her employment, accusing her of failing to follow this direction.
In an email, general manager James Saltmer said:
“Your conduct during that incident:
- was wilful or deliberate behaviour by you that is inconsistent with the continuation of your contract of employment, and
- had the potential to cause serious risk to the health or safety of yourself and other passengers on board.
“We consider that your actions constitute serious misconduct warranting summary dismissal.”
Bus driver wins unfair dismissal
However, Commissioner Bernie Riordan did not agree.
He found the bus driver did not engage in “enforcement’’ of the mask mandate, but rather, was concerned about the safety of herself and her passengers.
Mr Riordon said Logsdon asked the passenger to leave the bus because he verbally abused her, and not because he refused to wear his mask.
He therefore found that Surfside Buslines did not have a valid reason to sack Logsdon.
As a result, he ordered the company to reinstate the “proud and caring bus driver’’ to her former role, with continuity of service and backpay.
He was scathing in his criticism of the employer:
“I find it incredulous that any employer would dismiss an employee for asking a passenger to comply with a government mandate.
“This abuse is clearly a breach of the passenger’s responsibility to act in accordance with Surfside Busline’s Passenger Code of Conduct.
“The passenger claimed to be a law student. The respondent should have sent the appropriate section of the video to the dean of law at the local university so that he could be identified and appropriate action taken against him, rather than dismiss the applicant.”
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Show more kindness
Logdson later spoke about the incident with the Gold Coast Bulletin.
“Driving a bus really is a frontline job and you’re on your own,” she said.
“It’s tough when you’re dealing with abuse or disrespect, but I actually really loved my job.
“The vast majority of my passengers are wonderful people – the elderly who caught the bus every day, school kids who you want to look after – it’s just a real slice of life at every stop.
“But I think when the pandemic started, everyone’s tensions, tempers and anxieties were raised.
“On that particular day, it was a guy who was just disrespectful and it escalated. I wish it hadn’t happened.”
Logdson wants everyone to show more kindness.
“Every driver and every worker is doing the best they can. Think about other people on the bus as well. We’re all just trying to get through our day,” she said.
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