A middle-aged courier’s inappropriate behaviour – including hugging and requesting a birthday kiss from young women – has been ruled as valid grounds for dismissal.
Carmelo Sapienza claimed he was unfairly terminated by Perth transit business Secure Cash last July, the Fair Work Commission heard.
He was sacked following three separate complaints from his employers’ clients about his alleged inappropriate behaviour within three months.
The most serious allegations included that on collecting cash from a ladies clothing store, Mr Sapienza would ask the female staff ‘when will you be leaving your boyfriend so we can run away together’.
The Fair Work Commission ruled that Carmelo Sapienza’s affectionate behaviour towards young female staff was ‘improper’ and ‘unprofessional’
At another premises to collect the banking, he leaned over the counter and put his cheek up to two girls’ faces to request a birthday kiss.
Mr Sapienza acknowledged that he may have asked the female employees for a kiss due to his cheeky nature and tendency to joke around.
His explanation for this conduct was that as an Italian he was used to affection and showing affection.
He claimed he hugged staff at other clients’ premises and that he kissed his father every time he saw him until he passed away.
This week, Fair Work Commission ruled that Mr Sapienza’s affectionate behaviour towards young female staff was ‘improper’ and ‘unprofessional’ and rejected his defence that it was due to his Italian heritage.
‘If Mr Sapienza did not know or appreciate that it is inappropriate asking 18 year old females for a kiss and indulging in the practice of hugging as a greeting or goodbye, which may not be reciprocated willingly by much younger persons, he ought to,’ Fair Work Commission deputy president Geoff Bull said.
Deputy president Bull found the company was ‘seriously lacking in procedural fairness’ as it had failed to give Mr Sapienza any chance to respond to the reasons for his dismissal
However, he dismissed Mr Sapienza’s claims of unfair dismissal.
Carmelo Sapienza was sacked following three separate complaints from his employers’ clients about his alleged inappropriate behaviour within three months
‘The explanation provided by Mr Sapienza of showing affection due to his Italian heritage falls short of justification for such behaviour towards otherwise unrelated persons,’ deputy president Bull concluded.
‘This is a complete and distinct difference from how one may conduct themselves with physical familiarity towards friends or in a family environment. Having found that a valid reason for the dismissal existed and considering all other factors, the applicant has not demonstrated to my satisfaction that his dismissal was harsh, unjust or unreasonable.’