A former Westpac employee who attempted to sabotage a colleague's internal job application by emailing the recruiter with details of a confidential HR complaint claimed she had misunderstood the meaning of "Doing the Right Thing in Westpac".
The woman filed an application for unfair dismissal after being sacked by the bank in September last year over two emails she had sent the previous month about her colleague.
"I am not sure if you are aware but there is an open case with HR against [him] for his abusive behaviour towards me," she wrote to a state manager after learning her colleague had applied for a role on his team, reports News.com.au.
"For a few years I tried to manage the problem myself however he did not stop so last year I had to lodge a formal complaint to HR. Allegations were proved and [he] is on probation for behaviour. My managers asked me not to proceed with the complaint in order for [him] to keep his job.
"I am feeling very strongly about racist, harassing and abusive people and I believe no one should tolerate or suffer from them."
The manager wrote back that he was "concerned about the content" of her email and that he would have to forward it on to her manager.
She responded that her manager was "fully aware of the formal complaint" and claimed the man was "supposed to go through the anger management program". "This may be a serious issue if any of managers have supported his application for promotion and even worse if [he] gets the job," she wrote.
She had filed an internal HR complaint against the man the previous year, alleging he had bullied and harassed her. The internal investigation only substantiated four out of eight specific allegations, and did not substantiate an allegation of racism.
In a letter to the woman in December 2016 notifying her of the outcome of the investigation, Westpac said "notwithstanding" those findings, the investigation had "raised some concerns about unprofessional behaviours by both [he] and yourself".
"Please also be reminded that the investigation and the outcomes are confidential and should not be disclosed to any person unless you are seeking advice or support from your support person, a lawyer, union representative or counsellor," the letter said.
Westpac sacked the woman for breaching confidentiality obligations and for spreading factually incorrect information, including stating that the case was open when it was closed, and that the allegations had been substantiated when they had not.
Her lawyers told Fair Work she regretted sending the emails but "mistakenly believed" she was obliged to send them because she believed the complaint remained open and unresolved, and that an employee could not apply for a new position while being the subject of a HR complaint.
She believed it was her duty to report it if this had been overlooked during the application process, which her lawyers said was a "misunderstanding of training provided called 'Doing the Right Thing in Westpac'."
In dismissing the application, Fair Work Commissioner Bruce Williams said the woman was "under no duty to report any of what she included in the emails" and he "did not accept that she was acting as a whistleblower".
"Both of the emails misrepresented what had occurred following a complaint she made which had been investigated by Wesptac," he said. "A number of the statements made in each of her emails were untrue.
"Further, [she] knew information she had included in her emails, to the extent that it was true, was confidential. She was aware that the Grievance Process required confidentiality. The outcomes letter dated 9 December 2016 expressly said this and expressly reminded her of her obligations to keep its details confidential.
"Self-evidently, [she] intended to damage [her colleague's] prospects of succeeding in his application for the vacant role. Sending the particular emails in all the circumstances was a valid reason for [her] dismissal."