A ferry master, dismissed after he tested positive for marijuana use the night before the ferry he was operating met an accident, was ordered reinstated by the Fair Work Commission despite the zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy of his employer.
Dismissal ruled unfair
The FWC found that the ferry master, who has been working for Harbour City Ferries Pty Ltd for 17 years, was unfairly dismissed from his job. The dismissal came on the heels of an accident on July 2013 that saw the ferry he was operating, the Marjorie Jackson ferry, collide with the Cabarita Wharf on the Parramatta River in Sydney.
The commission said his employer failed to take into consideration certain mitigating circumstances, like the fact that the ferry master smoked marijuana that night to relieve shoulder pain. Harbour City Ferries, according to the Commission, did not also present enough evidence that the ferry master was impaired when the accident took place.
Initially, the worker was only suspended without pay after he tested positive for marijuana, but was later dismissed from his job in August, an action which he claimed to be harsh.
Worker not rostered for shift
Apparently, the ferry master was not originally rostered for the shift, and had only been brought in to pinch-hit for another worker who called in sick. The worker also insisted there was no impairment caused by marijuana on the day of the accident, and that failing a drug test after conduct outside the workplace was not a valid enough reason to get sacked.
FWC Deputy President Jeff Lawrence says that while Harbour City Ferries indeed had a valid reason to dismiss the worker for breaching its policy of zero tolerance of drugs, the employee should have factored in the worker’s long service with the company, the lack or even absence of evidence that he used drugs regularly to the point of impairment, and the fact that the incident caused little damage and left passengers unharmed.
Harbour City Ferries has been ordered to reinstate the employee on April 22, but it has said it will appeal the decision.