A cleaner sacked for giving a teacher a massage at the school where she worked has lost her unfair dismissal claim.
Her employer said the service she provided to the teacher is “outside of our Contract of Services” and breached workplace health and safety policies.
Cleaner sacked for giving a teacher a massage
The cleaner worked for Darwin contact cleaning company Bright Lightz Cleaning Service Australia since April 2018.
The company has a major contract with the Northern Territory Department of Education.
In September last year, during a shift at a special needs school, a teacher asked the cleaner to “squeeze her shoulder” because she was in pain.
The cleaner told the Fair Work Commission she did this for about two minutes.
Outside our Contract of Services
In February this year, Bright Lightz emailed the cleaner a termination letter.
It said it became aware that she had “provided a service during business hours to one of the teachers late last year which was outside of our Contract of Services”.
“Unfortunately we have to terminate your employment as your actions breached our Contract of Services with the Northern Territory education department and has very serious repercussions.”
Bright Lightz accused the cleaner of seriously breaching workplace health and safety procedures.
However, the teacher involved submitted a letter to the Commission defending the cleaner stating:
“This (the massage) occurred only once and I was grateful that [the cleaner] was there to help.”
“FAMILY MEMBERS SACKED FROM KIMBERLEY COLLEGE LOSE UNFAIR DISMISSAL”
What the Commission said
However, deputy president Peter Sams ruled in favour of the employer.
“While I accept that the applicant strongly believes she had helped a person in discomfort… the applicant should have politely refused.
“Moreover, I consider it was inappropriate for [the teacher] to have asked the applicant to massage her.
“However, the fact the applicant considered she could do so, not only compromised the employer’s contractual arrangements with the Northern Territory Department of Education, but may have resulted in an injury to [the teacher] if something had gone wrong.”
Mr Sams consequently described the cleaner’s conduct as “sufficiently serious to justify the applicant’s immediate dismissal.”
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