HR Coordinator Ordered To Pay $35,000 in Costs

An HR coordinator has been ordered to pay $35,000 in costs to his former employer, after the Federal Circuit Court found his refusal to accept three settlement offers was unreasonable.

The HR Coordinator had claimed his former employer (Alsco Pty Ltd) and four of its managers took unlawful adverse action against him in sacking him for making bullying and harassment complaints, but Judge Stewart Brown rejected his claim in May 2018, finding he was dismissed for breaching the employer's email policy.

The employer subsequently applied for costs, claiming it had spent nearly $115,000 defending the case and that the HR coordinator had acted unreasonably in declining its settlement offers.

Judge Brown found the HR coordinator refused offers of $60,000, $70,000 and $80,000, seeking a settlement of about $180,000, and made a "veiled threat" to publicise information about the employer's business operations.

He said the HR coordinator's request was, at best, "an inept attempt to tickle up the offer or, at worst, an attempt at extortion", while the employer's offers were "closely calibrated and considered".

"[The employer's] view of the case was subsequently entirely vindicated," Judge Brown said, in finding the HR coordinator's response was "unreasonable and imprudent behaviour".

Case: Adamczak v Alsco Pty Ltd (No.4) [2019] FCCA 7 (9 January 2019)