In what must send a chill down the spines of HR departments everywhere, a man who drank 10 beers and told his boss to "fuck off" at the work Christmas Party has kept his job because his bosses were partly to blame for providing free alcohol.
The case, which was decided at Australia's Fair Work Commission this week, found that Sydney construction company "team leader" Stephen Keenan had been unfairly sacked for his performance at last year's Christmas party.
Keenan drank 10 free beers and a vodka and coke at the private event, then proceeded to tell a board member of his company to "fuck off".
He also had several shocking incidents with female staff members.
According to the FWC report, Keenan approached one colleague outside the event at the hotel's taxi stand:
Keenan: My mission tonight is to find out what colour your knickers you have on.
Colleague: They are white, touch my skirt and I'll kill you.
During the night he called one female colleague a "stuck up bitch". He asked another, "who the fuck are you? do you even work here?" and repeatedly told another, "I want to ask for your number, but I don't want to be rejected."
According to the report, Keenan's boss had sent around a note prior to the event. It said, "Do me a favour, don't be that idiot that I have to deal with on Monday morning. Don't be that person who gets blind drunk, abuses someone or punches someone."
But FWC vice-president Adam Watcher found that he could only rule on the incidents that took place between 6pm and 10pm at the official party. He also pointed the finger at the "excessive" alcohol served at the party.
"If alcohol is supplied in such a manner, it becomes entirely predictable that some individuals will consume an excessive amount and behave inappropriately," he said.
"In my view it is contradictory for an employer to require compliance with its usual standards of behaviour at a function but at the same time to allow the unlimited service of free alcohol."
The tribunal will sit again to decide whether Stephen Keenan will be reinstated at the company.
Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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