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Opera House contractor wins job back after drinking too much at work function

Lucy Dean
A contractor at the Sydney Opera House has won her unfair dismissal case. Image: Getty
A contractor at the Sydney Opera House has won her unfair dismissal case. Image: Getty

The Fair Work Commission found an Opera House contractor to have been unfairly dismissed after becoming drunk at a work event.

The contractor was dismissed by her employer, electrical and engineering firm Ryan Wilks after she became so drunk she vomited at a colleague’s farewell party.

The Opera House was a major client of Ryan Wilks, and the work event occurred at Opera Bar.

Ryan Wilks claimed she had made insulting comments and sexual propositions, allegations that the female contractor strongly denied.

As most witnesses had been consuming alcohol, the judge also questioned the veracity of the claims. The presiding judge, Commissioner Cambridge also noted that while the employer alleged the employee made sexual propositions to a staff member, the actual staff member said that it did not occur.

“In the absence of any factual basis for the reasons for dismissal that related to the applicant making disparaging remarks and/or sexually propositioning a Sydney Opera House employee, the extent of the applicant’s misconduct was confined to her drunkenness and associated vomiting at the after work hours farewell drinks function,” Cambridge said.

The contractor admitted to being so drunk she vomited, “I have never been so drunk in my life,” and said she had learnt her lesson.

“This is a wake-up call for me.”

Granting the female contractor the unfair dismissal remedy, the judge noted that employers are increasingly scrutinising employees’ behaviour outside of work, and noted that the employee was embarrassed and remorseful.

The judge said that while some disciplinary action was likely appropriate, her dismissal was not.

“Frankly, if one act of inoffensive drunkenness at an after work function provided valid reason for dismissal, I suspect that the majority of Australian workers may have potentially lost their jobs.”

This finding comes just days after a former Qantas flight attendant lost his unfair dismissal appeal after he was so drunk he fell unconscious in New York and missed his flight, and shift, home.

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