Sacked EnergyAustralia worker loses unfair dismissal claim in Fair Work Commission over Deepak Chopra comment

An EnergyAustralia employee was sacked after asking a colleague of Indian descent whether he was related to Deepak Chopra and telling a female colleague that she could not have children, which she took as a reference to her sexual orientation.

Author Deepak Chopra was cited in a recent unfair dismissal claim.Credit:

The Fair Work Commission rejected the sacked employee’s unfair dismissal claim and found his racial stereotyping of a colleague was a valid reason for sacking.

The commission heard that workers gathered for a “team huddle” on March 15 and were invited to share a piece of personal information. Before the man of Indian descent shared any information about himself, his colleague said: “What, don’t tell us you’re related to Deepak Chopra?”.

An employee who was present at the team huddle complained to EnergyAustralia which investigated the matter. Other employees then reported the same employee had said words to the effect of, “You can’t have a baby”, to another colleague who understood the statement to mean she was unable to bear children on account of her sexual orientation. She gave evidence that she felt distraught and belittled by the remark.

The sacked employee said his comment, made in December 2018, was a reference about her emotional state because she had just broken up with her girlfriend. He denied the Deepak Chopra comment was offensive. The man who was compared to Chopra said he viewed the statement to be “stereotyping” but “did not take it as an offensive statement”.

Deputy President Amber Millhouse said EnergyAustralia’s diversity policy and code of conduct required employees to be courteous and respectful to others. This included avoidance of racial stereotyping. The comments at issue were found to be offensive and discriminatory, amounting to a breach of the code of conduct. The dismissal was not found to be harsh, unjust or unreasonable.


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