Fair Work Commission deputy president Richard Clancy said the comments were ‘cruel, insulting and demeaning’. Picture: iStock
Fair Work Commission deputy president Richard Clancy said the comments were ‘cruel, insulting and demeaning’. Picture: iStock

Woman sacked over office aircon fight

A WORKPLACE  stoush over office heating has ended with one woman losing her job following a Fair Work Commission battle.

The relatable incident occurred on May 26 at the Melbourne office of market research company ORC International.

Things went downhill when market ­research interviewer Julia Bastoni asked for the heating to be turned on - however, her unnamed boss denied the request, saying she didn't feel cold.

Ms Bastoni, who had held the position since February 2010, replied by telling her supervisor she didn't feel cold due to her "natural extra padding".

The worker, who had already been given two official warnings, ended up being sacked over the comments which left her manager feeling humiliated.

In a previous incident, Ms Bastoni was sent home from work after breaching a company policy which banned employees from using their mobile phones on the job.

Ms Bastoni was allegedly upset over being disciplined and later sent her boss a Facebook message criticising her decision, which was republished in court documents seen by news.com.au.

"If keeping your job means I have to lose mine, it's a sad state of affairs. I realise I broke the rule and therefore pay for it, in fact, paid nearly $100 for it, which I can't afford," the Facebook message stated.

"Again, I take full responsibility. I might add, I was merely glancing and was more engrossed in my reading … I find the rule demeaning and childish.

"I know you are a stickler for the rules but I wonder if they pay you enough to feel good about undercutting me? I don't know. I am so frustrated with this job I hardly ever feel like coming in."

She was given a formal letter of termination following the May 26 incident, which noted her prior missteps.

"This is not the first time you have been cautioned and given a formal warning with regard to your behaviour at ORC International," the letter of termination read.

"The two complaints mentioned in this letter are not isolated incidents and represent further - and more serious - breaches of ORC's policies and procedures, especially in regard to bullying and harassment."

Fair Work Commission deputy president Richard Clancy said the comments were ‘cruel, insulting and demeaning’. Picture: iStock
Fair Work Commission deputy president Richard Clancy said the comments were ‘cruel, insulting and demeaning’. Picture: iStock

As a result of her termination, Ms Bastoni lodged an unfair dismissal claim, arguing before the commission that her comments were not intended as "fat-shaming" as her former company's lawyer claimed.

"There seems to be some basic science to the effect that skinny people experience the cold more than overweight people,'' she said.

"It might seem indelicate to point out that the reason why (the supervisor) did not feel the cold that the other staff did could be a basic biological factor, such as ­insulating fat layers. "However it is nevertheless probably a correct explanation that was put to (the supervisor) to explain why she should provide relief to the staff who were feeling the cold."

She said her comments were instead intended to be "euphemistic instead of demeaning" and that they had delivered a "result for the greater good of her colleagues - a warmer work environment on a cold Melbourne morning".

However, commission deputy president Richard Clancy ruled in favour of the termination.

He said the worker's comments were part of a wider pattern of "unacceptable" behaviour.

"I regard Ms Bastoni's behaviour as being completely disrespectable and unacceptable," he said.

"I am satisfied her dismissal was not a disproportionate outcome in response to cruel, insulting and demeaning comments."

And he said he was unconvinced by her argument.

"It seems the case put on her behalf is that provided one bases an insult on scientific/biological factors, it is justified. I do not ­accept this,'' he said.

"Further, to suggest Ms Bastoni's comments are justifiable on some sort of a utilitarian basis and the issue here was the complainant's lack of insight into the state or condition of her body beggars belief.''

ORC International has been contacted for comment.

 

Continue the conversation @carey_alexis | alexis.carey@news.com.au



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