An insurance broker has been awarded nearly $300,000 after the NSW District Court found that he was wrongfully dismissed by his employer following a drunken night at a work conference.
Donald Mitchell-Innes took Willis to court over his dismissal after a heavy night at a Melbourne conference in October 2012.
Mitchell-Innes and other Willis staff members attended a dinner whilst at a company training conference and he and other staff members headed out for night cap which lasted until the early hours of the following morning.
A lost hotel room key saw Mitchell-Innes locked out of his room for the night but he still made the conference at 9am the following morning.
An internal investigation led to Mitchell-Innes’ departure from Willis where he had been general manager for New South Wales since 2011.
Justice Taylor, who presided over the case, found that Mitchell-Innes was dismissed unfairly and awarded “$296,650.75,” in damages.
“I am not satisfied that Mr Mitchell-Innes engaged in gross misconduct or in ‘serious misconduct in serious circumstances
’ enlivening in Willis a power summarily to dismiss Mr Mitchell-Innes. It follows that the conduct of Willis in dismissing Mr Mitchell-Innes is in breach of his agreement, and he is entitled to damages.”
It was noted by Justice Taylor that “at the time alcohol consumption, in a work context, was not uncommon amongst employees of Willis in Australia,” and while Mitchell-Innes “was not at his best” at the sales training conference his infraction was “one-off event in a period of almost nine years employment with Willis,” and didn’t warrant termination.
A spokesperson for Willis said of the case: “We were very disappointed in the decision and have lodged an appeal.”