An ongoing workplace joke that was never really a laughing matter
Published 26 April 2023
Name calling and jibes can be a part of workplace culture, but when an employee has had enough it can create serious problems.
In many working environments some employees will inevitably get on better with some colleagues than they do with others, and in Amelia’s case such a friendship with a female colleague, also a friend outside of work, eventually led to her facing a fight to save her job.
Amelia was invited to a disciplinary hearing after snapping at a male employee who taunted her.
She had mentioned going out for a meal after work and was asked if it was for a romantic meal with her ‘girlfriend’, referring to her female colleague and pal.
Amelia gave her co-worker an expletive laden verbal blast, which he laughed off and did not complain about.
She was apparently overheard by another employee, who shocked by what they had heard, flagged it as a concern to management.
Amelia later admitted she would usually have brushed the comment off, but worry caused by news of a health scare earlier the same day was probably the reason she reacted angrily.
Following a disciplinary investigation Amelia, a media account executive, faced an allegation of aggressive and threatening behaviour.
She accepted her reaction was bad, and was warned dismissal was a potential outcome to the subsequent disciplinary hearing.
Our representative who supported Amelia at that hearing, after she contacted the Employee Support Centre, argued there was significant mitigation in the case which meant dismissal would be unfair.
Heterosexual Amelia had been repeatedly teased that due to the closeness of her friendship with her female colleague, the two must be romantically involved.
Harassment related to sexual orientation can occur for example if an employee is not of a particular sexual orientation, colleagues know they are not, but make comments and jokes saying they are.
Amelia explained to our representative that on the day in question she had simply had enough and reacted in a way she regretted.
She explained both she and her colleague were annoyed by the comments, but put up with it because it had gone on for so long.