The Christmas party season is on us again and it’s time to trawl the industrial law cases for examples of model behaviour (or not) which occurs at these functions (see also my 2017 and 2018  posts).

The 2004 Christmas party for Aristocrat Technologies was held at Dockside at Cockle Bay (on the balcony level). The party (which I am not referring to as a “p*ss up” for reasons which will become obvious presently) was fully paid for by the company and the preparation for it included meetings with union delegates and employees about the company’s expectations around responsible drinking and behaviour. There was also a company code of conduct and an “alcohol, drugs and the workplace policy”.

Although the party started at 6pm, Mr Brown was one of the first to arrive at 5:45pm. He was also, some 12 (or perhaps 15) beers later one of the last to leave at 10:15pm (the music stopped at 10pm). His drinks may (or may not) have been spiked with vodka by another employee Mr Wheatley who bought his own spirits to the function (because he didn’t like wine or beer). Nevertheless at 10:15pm, Mr Brown was seen on the balcony urinating onto the diners in the restaurant below (cringe). He received (literally) a clip over the ear from Mr Wheatley who talked him into paying (using his personal credit card) for the meals of the affected (and understandably unhappy) guests on the lower level.

There were then two separate scuffles (near the Imax theatre) between Messrs Brown and Wheatley, the second of which involved the police being called. The police in turn called an ambulance and the next thing that Mr Brown remembered was waking in hospital with “a severe headache unlike any he had experienced before”.

Unfortunately, his behaviour also created a headache at work and his employment was ultimately terminated as a result of his behaviour that night. He unsuccessfully sought reinstatement.  The Australian Industrial Relations Commission found (perhaps not surprisingly) that his dismissal wasn’t harsh, unjust or unreasonable. Undoubtedly this type of case must be every HR department’s worst nightmare. You can read the whole fiasco of Brown v Aristocrat Technologies [2005] AIRC 656 if you are interested.

Creative commons acknowledgment for the photograph.

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