The owner of a New South Wales central coast holiday village has been ordered to pay nearly AU$19,000 (NZ$21,000) in compensation to an elderly handyman he sacked on the spot like "some sort of Donald Trump".
Anthony Morley filed an application for unfair dismissal with the Fair Work Commission in November last year after being summarily dismissed from the Two Shores Holiday Village at The Entrance by owner Raymond Smith, news.com.au reported.
The 62-year-old, a casual employee who had tended the gardens and performed general maintenance duties at the village since 2012, drew the ire from Smith for failing to fix a sprinkler system, allegedly resulting in a number of plants dying.
"As the conversation developed, the applicant rejected the suggestion that any loss of flora was caused by any inadequate watering on his part, and he reiterated that he needed parts in order to repair the irrigation/sprinkler system," Fair Work documents state.
"At this point in the conversation, Smith said, inter alia [among other things], that the applicant had had two years to fix the irrigation/sprinkler system and then he told the applicant that he was 'let go'.
"The applicant asked if he was being sacked, and Mr Smith confirmed the termination of the applicant's employment, and advised the applicant that he was given one week's notice of his dismissal from employment."
Morley's lawyer told the Fair Work Commission that Smith, who visited the village several times a year with his wife and co-owner, had gone along with the sprinkler system being inoperable for years and had suddenly changed his mind.
He argued the sudden change of mind did not constitute a valid reason for Mr Morley's dismissal. He criticised Smith's decision to act alone without consulting the other directors of the company, including the couple's daughter, who lived at the site and was responsible for its day-to-day management.
"Mr Smith took this off his own bat and it appears to be some sort of Donald Trump, making all the decisions himself," he told the hearing.
The lawyer for Two Shores Holiday Village argued that there was a valid reason for Morley's dismissal because he fundamentally refused to follow instructions.
She said Morley made a conscious decision to refuse to repair the sprinkler system in direct defiance of the specific and repeated instructions, and fundamentally did what he thought was appropriate rather than what he was told.
Fair Work Commissioner Ian Cambridge found in favour of Mr Morley, arguing that he had "no warning" that failure to repair the sprinkler system "was an issue that threatened his continued employment".
"On the contrary, the applicant had an understandable belief that the employer tolerated the extensive delay with any repair to the irrigation/sprinkler system," he said. "The decision to dismiss the applicant was made by Mr Smith in an outburst of frustration and for reasons that were not sound, well-founded or defensible."
Cambridge said a "conscious failure to comply with the reasonable direction" would "often provide for valid reason for dismissal".
"However, in circumstances where the direction given by the employer is not of a nature where it would be reasonably apparent that failure to comply would jeopardise continued employment, it is necessary for the direction to be accompanied with a warning of the potential consequences of any failure to comply," he said.
Cambridge ordered Two Shores Holiday Village to pay Morley 20 weeks' wages of AU$19,096, minus a AU$500 loan which had not been repaid, for a total of AU$18,596.