Scott Morrison doubts the private sector would sack a worker for calling someone “a lying cow”.
However, employment law experts don’t agree.
PM doubts private sector would sack worker for “lying cow” comments
The Prime Minister made the assertion when referring to Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ comments about alleged rape victim Brittany Higgins.
Morrison responded abruptly to a question from News Corp journalist Samantha Maiden.
Maiden asked if Senator Reynolds would be fired for making similar comments in the private sector.
“Well, you must have worked in a lot of different places to me in the private sector,’’ the PM said.
“I can only reflect on some of the things I hear about media rooms and the way they talk about people in those places.
“And if that were the case, you’d have to clear the whole place, I suspect.
“The minister deeply regrets saying these things and has offered an apology, as she should.”
“What-about-ism” a regular Morrison tactic
In his response, Morrison once again engaged in “what-about-ism” – suggesting members of the media make similar comments in their workplaces.
It is a common tactic of the Prime Minister when answering difficult questions.
He did the same thing on a previous occasion when questioned about the behaviour of Attorney-General Christian Porter and Minister Alan Tudge.
When asked by reporters about the culture of drinking at Parliament House and Ministers having affairs with staffers, Morrison said this:
“And that culture, you will all know, is not restricted to government, or Opposition, to Labor or Liberal, or frankly the media in this building.”
Social media criticism
Many social media users disputed the Prime Minister’s assertion about the consequences of verbal abuse in private sector workplaces.
What the experts say
Employment law expert Miles Heffernan also says Scott Morrison is wrong.
“It is simply not the case that calling someone ‘a lying cow’ is workplace conduct that won’t get your fired from the private sector,” he said.
“Most companies have strict Codes of Conduct that prohibit rude, aggressive and bullying behaviour.
“And that includes calling someone ‘a lying cow’, for example.”
Mr Heffernan referred to a recent unfair dismissal case involving a worker who commented on her supervisor’s weight.
The woman remarked that her boss wouldn’t feel the cold because she had “natural extra padding”.
The Fair Work Commission subsequently found the employer had a valid reason to sack the employee.
Deputy president Richard Clancy described the comments as “cruel, insulting and demeaning”.
He also said the worker “exhibited a lack of insight into the appropriateness of her choice of wording”.
No place for offensive comments in the workplace
Mr Heffernan says there is no place for bullying behaviour, including offensive comments in the workplace.
“Calling someone ‘a lying cow’ is not appropriate in any workplace, including Parliament House,” he said.
“And it appears the Fair Work Commission considers such conduct is grounds for dismissal from the private sector.”
Senator Reynolds has since apologised to Higgins for her comments in a written statement:
“I want to express how deeply sorry I am for these remarks and for any hurt and distress they have caused.”
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