Truck driver sacked for urinating outside Woolies wins unfair dismissal case

By: Brad Gardner

Procedural errors bring Sargeant Transport undone.

Truck driver sacked for urinating outside Woolies wins unfair dismissal case
Sargeant Transport says David Cowan's actions breached the company's driver manual.


A truck driver sacked after being caught urinating outside a Woolworths distribution centre has received around $14,000 in compensation after winning an unfair dismissal claim.

David Cowan took his former employer, Sargeant Transport, to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) after the company fired him in March this year.

A CCTV camera at the Woolworths distribution centre at Barnawatha in north-east Victoria caught Cowan relieving himself while waiting for his truck to be granted entry to the site.

Woolworths responded  by banning him from all of its sites for three months.

Sargeant Transport viewed the camera footage and then decided to sack Cowan on the basis he breached the company’s driver manual that requires all employees "to conduct themselves in a polite and courteous professional manner".

However, FWC commissioner Michelle Bissett found that the trucking operator failed to follow the correct procedure for dismissing an employee.

Bissett says Sargeant Transport and its human resources manager, Kate Jewell, did not tell Cowan of the allegations and evidence against him or give him an opportunity to respond when told he was being sacked.

"I find it disturbing that neither Ms Jewell nor anyone else from the Respondent sat with the Applicant and explained to him the allegations, the evidence and the potential consequences of the allegations if proven, nor asked him why he should not be subject to a disciplinary outcome (including dismissal)," Bissett says in her written judgment.

"At no stage was any allegation put to the Applicant in writing, nor the extent of the evidence explained to him. Further, some relevant information, such as the length of the ban from Woolworths, was not given to the Applicant."

Bissett awarded Cowan $16,128 in compensation, but deducted from that amount payment he received from Sargeant in lieu of notice.

Cowan blamed the incident on a case of "urinary urgency" brought on by his diabetes. He says he did not have time to wait until he gained entry to the distribution centre and the toilet facilities inside there.

"He said if he did not urinate then he would have wet himself, something he says would have been unacceptable to the Respondent and to Woolworths and would have caused him great embarrassment," Bissett says.

Cowan managed to pick up work since leaving Sargeant Transport is now once again delivering freight to Woolworths distribution centres.

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