Monthly Archives: July 2012

“Don’t F****** Bother, I Quit!”

In another twist to the tale of f-bombs in the workplace,16 year old Mayson Bradford has lost her bid for compensation after flying off the handle at her employer in a phone conversation.  Employment Relations Authority (ERA) member James Crichton held the hairdressing junior had a personal grievance after former employer, Anita Good of Zak’s Hairdressing of Halswell, failed to allow a cooling off period following an emotional outburst. However, this wasn’t enough to warrant compensation.

The teen, who didn’t return to work after her medical certificate lapsed, concluded the conversation by allegedly telling Miss Good “Don’t f—– bother, I quit”. While Bradford denied the conversation, Crichton said he was satisfied that it did indeed occur. “ It’s a relatively extraordinary state of affairs that a young employee would completely overlook a significant telephone discussion that she had with an employer, but that appears to be the position in this case”.

Crichton concluded that Bradford did have a personal grievance as a fair and reasonable employer would “not take at face value what was said (in the heat of the moment).” Accordingly, he held that Miss Good “ought to have engaged with Ms Bradford after the…call so as to ensure that, after a cooling off period, Ms Bradford still intended to resign her position.”

However, Crichton also found that Bradford’s “complete contribution to the circumstances” of the personal grievance made her “wholly responsible for it”, consequently she was deprived of any remedies, compensation or otherwise.

So maybe we’re not as loose with our language as our friends across the ditch. (see ‘What the f— do you have to do to get fired?’ https://employmentlawexperts.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/what-the-f-do-you-have-to-do-to-get-fired-these-days/ ). Or perhaps, given that remedies are still being considered, the Fair Work tribunal in the case of the salty tongued seaman, Mark Haliman, will come to similar conclusions as Crichton.

TESSA KATE HOGG 26/07/2012

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Sweet Beats and Dot.Com Antics, Six of the Best on Youtube

Mondays.. they aren’t much fun, so we’re chucking a bit of dot-com.edy your way.


For those of you not up with the play, Kim Dotcom, alleged internet pirate and New Zealand resident, was arrested at his multi-million dollar mansion North of Auckland’s in January 2012 at the request of the US government. He and his three co-accused, are currently facing extradition from NZ to the US due to Megaupload.com, a file-sharing website that the German billionaire founded which is at the centre of a US-led global internet piracy case.

If you want to check out the Three-Strikes Law and what Dot-com has to do with you.. take a squizz at our March article at https://employmentlawexperts.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/dotcom-dilemmas-in-your-workplace-4/.

Otherwise, enjoy the escapades of the larger than life internet mogul at the centre of a mammoth legal battle. Love or hate him, you can’t deny his entertainment value.

TESSA KATE HOGG 23/07/2012

1. Phat beats.. feat. Kanye West,Sean Combs, will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg, Serena Williams and Kim Kardashian

2. “Mr President”- First day.. 200,000 hits

3. Controversial $500,000 Auckland Fireworks Display

4. Chatting to Campbell

5. Gamer

6. Prankster

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Lawyers.. More Trustworthy than Sex Workers, Taxi Drivers and Door-to-Door Sales People

The results are out…and shock horror, legal eagles aren’t top of the trusted tables in New Zealand. That said, we must be doing something right as we have soared our way from a dodgy 36th to a (slightly) more respectable 28th in the 2012 New Zealand’s Most Trusted Professions list .

TESSA KATE HOGG 18/07/2012

For the past eight years fire-fighters (surely in no way assisted by the New Zealand female’s fire-fighter fantasy..) have dominated the poll. We Kiwis clearly appreciate those who save, or risk, life and limb with the top six professions being fire-fighters, paramedics, rescue volunteers, nurses, pilots and doctors . Sadly, lawyers don’t fare so well. While we have pipped sex workers, CEOs and journos at the post, we slide into a pretty shady position of 28th of 40. Better than 36, yes.. but still not great.

There is some stiff competition.. Richie McCaw won us the Rugby World Cup earning him the number one spot in the Most Trusted People category. Alison Holst has baked her way into our hearts at number 2 and Mad Butcher Peter Leitch at 3 shows our love for a good ol’ straight-talking sausage tycoon. Also notable is Corporal Willie Apiata who comes
in 5th. Although today it was announced the ‘reluctant hero’ is leaving the SAS, we trust him because 1. We hate tall poppies, so we like his reluctance and 2. In a war Willie would have our back. It’s always nice to have a living VC holder on your team. The only legal eagle to make it into the top 100 this year was Chief Justice Sian Elias at number 24.

Dusting off some of the artwork here at Buckett Law we realised New Zealander’s lack of lawyer love doesn’t really come as a surprise..

Reader’s Digest Trust Poll 2012 Professions

1. Firefighters
2. Paramedics
3. Rescue volunteers
4. Nurses
5. Pilots
6. Doctors
7. Pharmacists
8. Veterinarians
9. Armed forces
10. Police
11. Teachers
12. Scientists
13. Childcare workers
14.Farmers
15. Dentists
16. Bus/train/tram drivers
17. Chefs
18. Hairdressers
19. Builders
20. Plumbers
21. Mechanics
22. Truck drivers
23. Waiters
24. Shop assistants
25. Accountants
26. Bankers
27. Charity collectors
28. Lawyers
29. Religious ministers
30. Taxi drivers
31. Financial planners
32. Call centre operators
33. Chief executive officers
34. Journalists
35. Real estate agents
36. Insurance salespeople
37. Sex workers
38. Car salespeople
39. Door-to-door salespeople
40. Telemarketers
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What the F*** Do You Have to Do to Get Fired?

Dropping the F bomb at work might not get you fired according to the recent Australian decision concerning Adam Haliman, the fiery-tempered fish feeder who told his employer to get f—ed.

TESSA KATE HOGG  13/07/2012

Potentially appropriate times to let the f— flag fly…

  • An All Black loss to Australia. In the World Cup. After 20 years of choking.
  • When you pour your morning coffee on your new white shirt. Five minutes before an interview.
  • When your bus pulls away. After a 50m dash in the rain. Without you on it.
  • When your boss asks you to feed the tuna over the weekend…?

Potty mouthed employees everywhere can now breathe a sigh of relief. While the F-word might result in a few coins in the swear jar, letting it rip in the workplace is not necessarily cause for summary dismissal. The recent decision from the Fair Work Tribunal in Australia reflects a growing realisation that profanities don’t pack as much punch as they used to. Conversely, recent studies show they may even help mark solidarity, make friends and relieve stress.

When Adam Haliman, tuna feeder, was asked to work over the weekend he told his boss to “get f—ed, I’m not working in the f—ing weekend.” Soon Adam wasn’t working at all. His boss felt the double f-bomb was enough to get him fired from the job he had held for the past six years at Marnikol Fisheries in Port Lincoln Sydney.

However, when Adam took his case to the Fair Work Tribunal in Australia they found that while throwing around expletive-packed ammo is less than ideal in a work place, it does not automatically justify firing without prior investigation or hearing. The Tribunal maintained that the words were used for added emphasis as opposed to a form of abuse, in this particular circumstance where it was common knowledge that the worker’s partner was due to give birth the worker that weekend. Accordingly, they found the dismissal to be harsh and unjust. Remedies, be it compensation or re-instatement are still being mulled over as the parties bring forth the appropriate evidence.

Verbal vulgarity has historically tongue-tied the legal profession. In 1963, a Chicago prosecutor opening an indecency case against ‘four letter comedian’ Lenny Bruce famously stated, “I don’t think I have to tell you the term. I think that you recall it … as a word that started with f and ended with k and sounded like truck.” Yet, despite past struggles, there is a rising tide of wider public acceptance of swearing, and it is only natural that this has extended to both the workplace and, as shown by recent decisions, the courtroom .

The maritime and fishing industries are infamous for salty language; illustrated by the sayings ‘to swear like a sailor’ and ‘cuss like a fishwife’. Haliman says profanity use is embedded in the fishing culture “everyone swears there, it’s the fishing industry, we’re not in an office or a school”. So, although the language did create some cause for concern, the tribunal found that in the circumstances the dismissal was disproportionate to Haliman’s conduct.

Back here in Godzone, the case of cursing was considered in respect of an early childcare worker who was fired following an angry exchange with fellow campers. On holiday with her children at Kaiteriteri beach in Nelson, Justine McDonald allegedly not only threatened to pour a bucket of water on the heads of noisy camp neighbours, but also told them to f— off back to Christchurch.

While the fiery exchange didn’t occur during work time, McDonald was driving a company car of the childcare company she worked for. According to the employers, this reflected badly on the company who, after two disciplinary hearings, fired McDonald for yelling at and frightening children between six and 11 years. She took her case to the Employment Relations Authority and won on the basis that the company did not carry out a full investigation before dismissal. The Authority found that while she did swear at another adult, she did not swear at children and it was accepted that this was a ‘flash in the pan’ situation where friction had developed in cramped conditions, not grounds for a reasonable employer to dismiss. She was awarded 15,000 in damages and three months lost wages.

Recent Victoria University studies into how language is used in the workplace also gives common assumptions about swearing a kick in the a–. The 2003 study found that the use of the word f— in a factory worker setting could in fact develop team spirit and maintain team membership. Research director Professor Janet Holmes found that while expletives played a role in direct complaints they also were used to boost team morale by demonstrating that the speaker knows someone well, therefore differentiating between those in a team and outside. “Forms of f— occur frequently in certain contexts and serve a range of functions, including the role of positive politeness strategy. F— is regularly associated with expressions of solidarity, including friendly terms of address. It reflects the attitude that says that I like you, so I can be rude to you,” the researchers said.

This is a sentiment followed by Professor Kate Burridge, Chair of Linguistics in the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University, Melbourne, who has a keen interest in tackling the topic of swearing and taboo language in antipodean English. “Studies show that if you’re with a group of close friends, the more relaxed you are, the more you swear,” Dr. Burridge says. “It’s a way of saying: ‘I’m so comfortable here I can let off steam. I can say whatever I like.’’

That said, swearing in the workplace is a prickly subject. This was recognised by the tribunal in Haliman, the tuna feeder’s case as so much of the meaning of words are both circumstantial and in the delivery. According to Albert Mehrabian’s 7-38-55% rule, a measly 7% of a message is in its literal meaning while 38% is in the tone of voice and 55% in body language. To a large degree this can explain the difference between the acceptance of a jovial f— and the offense caused by an angry f—.

Swearing directed at people is more of a problem in the workplace as it can be perceived as bullying or sexual harassment. The current legal test for bullying can be found in Kneebone v Schizophrenia Fellowship Waikato Incorporated and requires repeated actions, which are carried out with the desire to gain power or exert dominance and with the intention to cause fear and distress. And, yes, verbal bullying is included. In McGowan v Nutype Accessories Limited repeated verbal insults from a staff member which were directed at a general manager such as “ f— bastard”, “you’re f— disgusting, dead man” and “I’m gonna f— drop you, bastard”, were held to represent overt, extreme, persistent and offensive bullying.

So, it is important to know your crowd and tame your temper if you plan on directing the f-ammo at an actual target in your workplace. This is a lesson recently fired former Yahoo CEO and serial f-bomb dropper Carol Bartz knows all too well after raining torrents of emotional expletives onto staff. These included an infamous instance where she told yahoo employees she would “drop kick them to f—ig mars” if they leaked any information to the public. Other corporates have attempted to delete expletives at work. At Goldman Sachs all swearing is out after one very public “s—-y deal” in an internal email caused a PR nightmare for the company resulting in a ban on all obscenities in electronic communication.

Jim O’Connor, the creator of the “Cuss Control Academy” says that a total elimination of swearing isn’t necessary, but that it should be confined to situations of extreme emotion (hammer+thumb) or poetic licence (Rhett Butler’s “Frankly my dear”). He splits cursing into casual (mate, how the f— are you) and causal (the f—ing photocopiers f—ed!! ) and advocates the elimination of at least the casual in the workplace, as danger lies in the pervasive presence of profanity and its ability to sneak into situations where it is unwarranted .

So.. think twice before raining down a few cheeky f, s, c or b bomb at work, although studies show they may make you a few friends, as the tuna feeder found out, they are likely to do more immediate damage than they’re worth. The final word goes out to the Flight of the Conchords.

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