17 September 2020
The Public Service Appeal Board has upheld an appeal against the decision of the WA Country Health Service to dismiss a security officer who was convicted of assault occasioning bodily harm on the basis that the dismissal was harsh, unfair, and disproportionate.
The appellant worked as a full-time security officer with the Health Service for ten years. In July 2019, he was convicted of assault occasioning bodily harm in relation to an incident between him and a member of his extended family.
Section 150(3) of the Health Services Act 2016 (WA) provides that “... if an employee is convicted or found guilty of a serious offence, the employing authority may take such disciplinary action or improvement action… as the employing authority considers appropriate.”
In reliance on that provision, the Chief Executive wrote to the appellant and informed him that the Health Service had decided to take disciplinary action by way of dismissal.
The appellant argued that his dismissal was harsh because it was disproportionate to the misconduct in question, having regard to the circumstances of the offence.
The respondent contended that because of the nature of the appellant’s conduct, and because the position he held required him to provide security for patients, visitors and other staff, the decision to dismiss the appellant was appropriate.
The Board found that the appellant’s conviction arose in unique circumstances and was the culmination of provocation in the context of long-running, complex, cultural family tension and the stress of his wife’s recent illness. The Board also considered the appellant’s positive character references, unblemished work history and his acknowledgement of the seriousness of the matter. It found that he does not represent a threat to patient, staff, or visitor safety.
The Board determined that, on the evidence, the decision to dismiss was harsh, unfair, and disproportionate, that a warning and improvement action in the form of training was an appropriate penalty, and ordered that the appellant be reinstated without loss and with continuity of employment benefits.
The decision can be read here.