Bus driver's bad language gets him fired
Wed, 05 Sep 2012 12:13p.m.
By Dan Satherley
A tour bus driver fired for swearing at his boss has failed to get his job back, and been ordered to pay his former employer $1000.
Michael Houghton was employed by adventure tour operator Stray Limited. In January, on the final night of a two-week tour, Mr Houghton called his boss to complain the group’s hotel was not up to standard.
Mr Houghton says the passengers on his previous tour had complained about the unnamed hotel's food. He called his boss, Brett Hudson, whom allegedly told him he would call the hotel to address the concerns. Mr Hudson says he made no such promise.
That night the hotel served up the same curried sausage meal that had generated complaints last time, and the passengers refused to eat it, instead going to a nearby pub. Mr Houghton says he paid for their meals himself, to prevent further trouble.
But the next morning, the passengers complained to him about the "unclean" and "cold" accommodation.
Tired and stressed, Mr Houghton sent an email to Mr Hudson, saying he would never take a group back to that hotel again, and implied Mr Hudson was trying to get him to quit.
Mr Hudson showed the email to the company's general manager, Heather Bailey, who agreed it was abusive.
Before Mr Hudson could respond, Mr Houghton phoned and allegedly told him to "get f***ed", called the hotel's food "f***ing pig slops" and asked Mr Hudson "what are you going to f***ing do about it".
Mr Hudson says he put the phone onto speaker so others could hear it.
He and Ms Bailey decided to suspend Mr Houghton and invite him to a disciplinary meeting, but when they phoned him back, he allegedly called Mr Hudson a "f***ing arsehole", a "w***er" and told him to "go f*** yourself", and hung up.
Mr Houghton's response to the Employment Relations Authority was that Mr Hudson also swore.
Mr Hudson sent Mr Houghton an email informing him of the meeting, and that he was not to "take any action that would bring the company into disrepute while you are suspended".
But in the next few days, Mr Houghton sent text messages to other Stray employees, friends who worked for competing tour operators and an employee of the hotel with the bad food, saying he was getting sacked. This was a breach of his duties as an employee, ruled the ERA.
Stray had sought $10,000 for each breach, but the ERA said that was disproportionate, instead awarding a penalty of $1000, payable to the company.
Complaints from passengers about Mr Houghton weren't cited in the dismissal, and they weren't discussed in the disciplinary meeting, but the ERA agreed the two abusive phone calls were enough justification.
The complaints included allegations Mr Houghton was only interested in passengers who "liked to drink and enjoy his jokes"; his driving was dangerous; and he talked a lot about how hard he was working.
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