In Jay Britchett’s termination case, there are several issues revolving around contract law and the law of tort. To commence with, there is the issue of obedience. This obligation rests on the employees as they are expected to obey requests from their employers. This issue transpired when Mr. Clearvagette ordered Mr. Britchett to leave his sister alone during the Christmas break-up party. Another relevant issue is the one on employee’s liability for torts accorded at common law. An employee is under obligation to ensure that they do not cause harm to others during the course of their employment. The issue arises when Mr. Britchett makes over-friendly advances to Gloria. Did his actions cause any harm to Gloria?
Unfair dismissal from employment has also emerged among the relevant issues in this case. The grounds that have resulted in Mr. Britchett dismissal seem to be unjust, harsh and unreasonable. What would have been the case if Britchett was expressing over-friendly advances to a colleague that was not the general manager’s sister? Would he have suffered similar consequences? There is an element of discrimination and desire to show superiority on the part of the general manager. The issue to do with breach of contract is also relevant in this case. This issue is evident on the notice period provided by the general manager. The period involved is not consistent with the period included in the employment contract.
Several legal principles are available in relation to the issues outlined above. On the issue of obedience, the Public Service Act 1999 (Cth), s7 requires employees to obey reasonable and lawful orders emanating from employers. There is no meticulous definition of what is deemed to be reasonable. It is usually dependent on the nature of employment involved (Sappideen et al, 2016, p. 201).
In common law, an employee is liable for any harm caused to colleagues during the course of employment. The harm caused, in this case, should have emanated directly from the employee’s conduct. The harm can either be physical or mental.
In case of a dismissal, the law requires it to be just, fair and reasonable. It should be consistent with the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code (Sappideen et al, 2016, p.338). The dismissal should also involve a genuine case of redundancy. The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), s 117, prohibits an employer from terminating an employee without issuing minimum period of notice. The period of notice is normally included in the employment contract. In case there is no agreement or prescription, the period postulated ought to be reasonable. An invalid notice will not be effective in ending an employment contract (Sappideen et al, 2016, p.379).
These principles can be used to analyze the legal issues involved in the case. Britchett is required by law to obey orders from Clearvagette since he is the general manager. The orders issued by the general manager, on the other hand, ought to be reasonable and lawful. In this case, the orders being provided were not relevant to the organization’s scope of activities. It was more of a personal issue that did not seem to have any effect on the organization operations. This is to mean that Britchett was not under obligation to take orders from Clearvagette. The general manager was also not in the right frame of mind to give orders since he was intoxicated. In R v Darling Island Stevedoring & Lighterage Co Ltd; Ex parte Halliday  HCA 44; 60 CLR 601, it was held that if an order relates to a subject matter of the employment and it is not illegal, the obligation of the employee to obey is dependent on whether it is reasonable.
When it comes to the obligation of not causing harm to colleagues, Britchett was not liable in any way. Through his over-friendly advances to Gloria, he did not cause her any physical or psychological harm. This is because she did not seem to object the advances. This was an indication that she was enjoying the entire thing.
Termination of Britchett’s employment did not seem fair. The grounds that resulted in the termination are not just, fair and reasonable. There is no indication of a genuine case of redundancy on the side of Britchett. The general manager overreacted since it was her sister involved in this case. He took the opportunity to show Britchett that he was superior and had the ability to get his way. The general manager terminated an employee’s contract of employment without providing the required notice period. Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), s 117 requires an employee to be accorded due notice before their contract is terminated (Sappideen et al, 2016, p.368). In this case, the general manager was supposed to give Britchett a six months notice as indicated in his employment contract. In Automatic Fire Sprinklers Pty Ltd v Watson  72 CLR 435, it was held that inadequate notice can be regarded as being “abortive”. Provision of inadequate notice can be regarded as an offer to terminate, and it is not valid. In this case, there was a breach of employment contract.
In conclusion, Britchett’s termination was wrongful since the notice provided was invalid. There are various remedies that the managing director can undertake to solve the case. Since the notice was invalid, the managing director can withdraw it before its acceptance by the employee. Withdrawing the notice would mean that the employee has been reinstated by the organization.
The managing director can also provide payment in lieu of notice to Britchett. This is regardless of whether there is an express contractual provision so allowing. The payment will be meant to compensate him for the loss of wages accruing during the notice period.
The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)
Public Service Act 1999 (Cth)
Automatic Fire Sprinklers Pty Ltd v Watson  72 CLR 435
R v Darling Island Stevedoring & Lighterage Co Ltd; Ex parte Halliday  HCA 44; 60 CLR 601
Sappideen, C, O’Grady, P, Riley, J, and Smith, B (2016). Macken’s Law of Employment – 8th Edition. Australia: Thomson Reuters.
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