‘Offensive’ Instagram post a valid reason for firing hospital worker, FWC says
Employment July 3, 2018 11:56 pm By Miklos Bolza | Sydney

The Fair Work Commission has thrown out an unfair dismissal case by a Sydney-based hospital employee who was fired after an unsolicited and “highly offensive” Instagram message to a young nurse.

FWC senior deputy president Jonathan Hamberger said Monday the sacking of Oliver Bridgwater — an anaesthetic technician at the Prince of Wales Private Hospital  — was not unfair.

Bridgwater, 47, had worked at the hospital for almost eight years when he was fired in March for serious misconduct. The hospital worker had sent a “highly offensive and unwelcome message of a sexual nature” on Instagram to a graduate registered nurse from a pub in December 2017.

Bridgwater filed his application for unfair dismissal remedy against Healthscope Operations, which owns 43 private hospitals including Prince of Wales. He claimed the message was “at most at the lower end of the spectrum of sexual harassment” and that the communications were private and occurred outside the workplace.

In dismissing his case, Hamberger said it was “wrong to minimise the nature of the message”. As well as working in the same building, the nurse was soon to be transferred to a role where she would be working in “close proximity” to Bridgwater, Hamberger said.

“This put her in an extremely stressful position. It also brought the matter within the
legitimate concern of the respondent,” Hamberger said.

Bridgwater breached the hospital’s workplace harassment policy and Prince of Wales followed the proper procedure, Hamberger said, adding that Bridgwater’s argument that he had been drinking when he sent the Instagram message was not mitigating.

“In all the circumstances, the applicant’s sexual harassment of the nurse constituted a valid reason for his dismissal by the respondent on the grounds of serious misconduct,” the commissioner said.

The case is Oliver Bridgwater v Healthscope Operations Pty Ltd T/A Prince of Wales Private Hospital.

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Christine Caulfield

Christine Caulfield has been a journalist for 18 years. She was most recently the Co-Managing Editor at US legal news publication Law360. Prior to that she worked as the County Court reporter for The Herald Sun. She is Co-Founder and Editor of Lawyerly.