Something in the Air

A Jetstar supervisor has recently lost his claim for unfair dismissal, according to a report in the Financial Review, 3rd March.

This might not ordinarily be newsworthy, but one of the reasons for his dismissal, was that he failed to report a subordinate who was farting loudly (and often) at work. The subordinate did some other unsavoury things, but my first thought was this; did anyone ever tell any manager that loud farts fall under their responsibilities? We have gone from a society where it was impolite to draw attention to someone’s flatulence, to a workplace where the words ‘I’m reporting you’ are now supposed to follow the gaseous emissions of our employees.  

Jetstar, and the Fair Work Commission, clearly believe that the plaintiff should have managed the ‘fall out’ (sorry) from the employee who ‘stepped on a duck’ too frequently and too loudly. The Fair Work Commission said that the supervisor had a duty to escalate significant breaches of the Code of Conduct.

I’d like to read Jetstar’s Code of Conduct and note where flatulence is written. How are breaches usually recorded in the management minutes? Is farting in the safety notes under near misses?    

This is an overreach in the concept of duty of care. No-one is going to be injured or die because of someone else’s loud fart.

I would have suggested, if ever asked, that simply asking ‘who opened their lunchbox?’ will usually suffice in letting the offender know that their trouser cough has been noted. One of my favourite managers would respond with ‘Better an empty let than a bad tenant.’ ‘Light a match’ is a useful remedy in normal workplaces but would be difficult around aircraft. Fuel is the big problem and anyway, who has a packet of matches these days?

Jetstar, as part of Qantas, has been happy to minimise leg room and configure aircraft seating that squashes us all in, knowing very well that anxiety levels will rise and the risk of DVTs and attacks on staff are more likely.  And if you want to see what being squeezed in and immobile is doing to your digestive organs, put a half empty plastic bottle of water in your seat back pocket on the next occasion you fly. Look at what has happened to it by the end of the flight. That effect is the reason why you disembark most flights and do some involuntary ‘crop dusting’ as you make your way through the terminal, probably breaching your own Code of Conduct.

Was the Jetstar supervisor well trained? Was he supported when he raised behavioural issues that seemed awkward?  Did he think that his manager would respond with, what do you want me to do about it? I don’t know, but I think the flatulence issue is hypocritical.  And I can only pity this man at his next few interviews trying to explain his ‘reasons for leaving’. 

By the way, the employee who created his very own ‘toxic atmosphere’ is still employed. It’s the supervisor, with sixteen years of service who had to take a walk instead.  Failing to report the behaviour was worthy of dismissal, the behaviour itself, was not. How absurd.