Policy only contained “general knowledge”
Commissioner Nick Wilson, who penned the ruling on the unfair dismissal case filed by chicken harvester Heidi Cannon against Poultry Harvesting Pty Ltd, said there is no evidence that workers were bound to a “zero tolerance” policy, contrary to claims by the employer. Wilson said the company’s documents only contained “general knowledge” about drug and alcohol restrictions. It did not explicitly state that its farms are no-drinking zones, as well as clearly stipulate when workers should stop drinking prior to starting a shift.
Cannon was sacked in November 2014 after a colleague reported to their supervisor that she was intoxicated and passed out in a truck, which is being blamed for the loss of up to 60 chickens being harvested. However, Cannon insists that she wasn’t drunk at that time, claiming that during the Melbourne Cup holiday, she only had three or four glasses of wine over a nine-hour period, and stopped drinking three hours before her midnight shift started.
“While the evidence supports a finding on the balance of probabilities that [the worker] was aware that consumption of alcohol at work was not permitted, or that presenting for work in an intoxicated state would not be permitted, I am not able to find that [she] had been warned or was aware that consuming alcohol to any level prior to presenting for work was not permissible,” Wilson said.
Wilson also ruled that the employer sacked Cannon without any proper assessment of her condition. Declaring Cannon’s dismissal as unfair, the FWC commissioner also awarded her $6968 in compensation.
A lesson to all employers: If you are implementing a workplace alcohol policy, make sure every single aspect is written down clearly and made explicitly clear to everyone concerned.
Read the full FWC ruling here.