career

The two emails that got one woman sacked for 'trying to do the right thing'.

When a Westpac employee saw her male colleague had submitted an internal job application, she was concerned.

She’d filed an official complaint with HR about the man the year before for eight separate incidences of alleged racism, bullying and harassment that happened “over a few years”.

So, she decided to send an email to the manager overseeing the role’s applications.

“I am not sure if you are aware but there is an open case with HR against [him] for his abusive behaviour towards me,” the woman’s email to the Westpac state manager read, News.com.au reports.

“I am feeling very strongly about racist, harassing and abusive people and I believe no one should tolerate or suffer from them.

“Allegations were proved and [he] is on probation for behaviour. My managers asked me not to proceed with the complaint in order for [him] to keep his job.”

Concerned about the content of the email he’d received, the state manager replied to the woman’s email stating he was obliged to forward it on to her direct report.

“[My direct report is] fully aware of the formal complaint,” the woman replied in a second email.

“This may be a serious issue if any of managers have supported his application for promotion and even worse if [he] gets the job.”

Do you think it’s ever a good idea to talk negatively about someone you work? After Karl Stefanovic’s unfortunate Uber phone call, Mamamia Out Loud discussed. Post continues after audio.

A month after sending the two emails, the woman was sacked by Westpac in September, 2017 for breaching confidentiality obligations and passing on factually incorrect information.

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In an application for unfair dismissal, News.com.au reports the former Westpac employee’s lawyers told Fair Work she regretted sending the emails but “mistakenly believed” she was doing the right thing and it was a “misunderstanding of training provided called ‘Doing the Right Thing in Westpac’.”

In a letter from Westpac at the conclusion of the internal investigation into her colleague’s alleged behaviour, the company expressed that the investigation and its outcomes were confidential and not to be disclosed to anyone “unless you are seeking advice or support from your support person, a lawyer, union representative or counsellor”.

Westpac said they decided to fire the woman because the investigation – which substantiated four of the eight allegations, excluding an allegation of racism – was closed and the allegations she wrote about in her emails had not been proven.

Fair Work Commissioner Bruce Williams rejected the woman’s dismissal application, saying she was under no duty to report any of the information she passed on in the emails and that the emails were a misrepresentation of the outcome of the investigation.

“Self-evidently, [she] intended to damage [her colleague’s] prospects of succeeding in his application for the vacant role,” he said.

“Sending the particular emails in all the circumstances was a valid reason for [her] dismissal.”

Do you think this woman was ‘doing the right thing’? Should employees notify their managers if they think they know something compromising about their co-workers?

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