I recently read a Thomson Reuters newsletter about the legal risks of the office Xmas party, including virtual ones: “Think team members with Santa hats and reindeer ears eating and drinking together, making small talk (albeit with the occasional two-second awkward delay), swapping gifts, playing games and dancing … all in the comfort of their own homes“…. aaargh!!!

Of course, its much more fun to blog about the people who didn’t heed the risks. In early 2007 Telstra held a combined farewell/belated Xmas party for the employees of one of its stores. Some of the employees hired a hotel room for the night. That might have been a good idea, although its apparent from the judgment of the full bench of the AIRC [2008] AIRCFB 15, that things got a little out of hand:

(14) During the course of the night in the room in Hotel B, Ms XXX was involved in rowdy behaviour, bathed with both the fourth employee and another employee, stood by in the bathroom with a towel around her naked body while the first employee went to the toilet and then, while the first employee was still there, dropped her towel to get back in to bathe with the fourth employee and the other employee, and had sexual intercourse with the fourth employee within the view and/or earshot of the first employee, second employee and third employee.

(15) On 25 February 2007, the first employee rang the then Acting Manager of Telstra’s Miranda store. She was hysterical.  She told him about Ms XXX’s activities in the room at Hotel B. The Acting Manager subsequently spoke to the second employee. She was very quiet. She told him “it was all messed up”. The second employee was scheduled to work at Telstra that day but was not able to do so as she was crying and hyperventilating. He also spoke to the third employee who was equally distressed and disgusted about the activities.

Unbelievably (initially at least), Telstra agreed to reinstate Ms XXX and pay her compensation for her termination of employment. I am unsure what happened but Telstra sought leave to appeal against that decision and the full bench (by majority) found that Ms XXX’s termination was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable.

Creative commons acknowledgment for the photograph.

Share Button