Written by Workforce chief journalist Gerard May.
The Fair Work Commission has found a decorated war veteran and the first female Black Hawk pilot was unfairly dismissed from her private sector job with the cmn forming “a strong impression” her gender was a “significant factor” in her boss looking for “dirt” on her – while male colleagues resented being challenged by “a forthright and capable woman”.
Commissioner Ian Cambridge found Ivana Gorlin veteran of operations in Kenya, Tanzania and Iraq never played the “gender card” after HNZ Australia Pty Ltd wrongly dismissed her for unsafe practices while flying a helicopter on October 11, 2014. That was despite the FWC accepting HNZ’s investigative approach couldn’t “more blatantly disregard the principles of natural justice”.
Cmr Cambridge rejected HNZ’s claims Gorlin was dismissed for breaching company standard operating procedures (SOPs) by operating an unserviceable aircraft, performing a non-standard take off, and executing a non-standard landing at Karratha.
He found while Gorlin did a “full power take off” from the ship’s helipad to 200 feet before she rotated, instead of the 35 feet HNZ SOP’s stated, it was neither unsafe nor a “mandated obligation”, according to expert witness and former HNZ chief pilot Alan Findlay.
Cmr Cambridge found Gorlin hadn’t been motivated by “malevolence”, “negligence”, or “disobedience” when performing “nose up” procedures on landing in Karratha, and didn’t breach operational or safety requirements.
Rather, she had been conducting a fault finding exercise out of concern for the next flight crew. That this should lead to an HNZ complaint was “ironic” because her concern was in protecting its interests, the cmr found.
Cmr Cambridge said if HNZ felt there was a safety issue with Gorlin deciding to fly the helicopter, then it should have believed the same in relation to her co-pilot on that flight, Matthew Doyle, because he had flown the previous two flights. He had identified a potential issue and was testing it with Gorlin.
‘A dossier was being prepared against her’
Finding “disturbing” evidence HNZ management had been preparing accusations against Gorlin they weren’t going to share with her until the accusations were substantiated, Cmr Cambridge said “it is difficult to imagine any investigative approach which could more blatantly disregard the principles of natural justice”.
“That is, simply, if the allegations are substantiated then you will be told what they are!”
HNZ didn’t tell Gorlin when it dismissed her that it had interviewed Doyle and that he made a statement about the flight.
Cmr Cambridge found “striking differences” between Doyle’s October 13, 2014 statement and his June 26, 2015 witness statement.
He said “perhaps the most generous explanation for these incongruities may be that with the passage of time, co-pilot Doyle may have confused and transposed events that have occurred on other flights”.
Ex-chief pilot damning of HNZ investigation
HNZ’s former chief pilot was damning of the company’s investigation, claiming employees were “pushed” to provide statements before any accusations were made.
“I felt uncomfortable that it could be perceived that a dossier was being prepared against her basically what dirt could be obtained prior to her even being spoken to,” he said.
Cmr Cambridge condemned the male bias at HNZ. Despite saying he believed Gorlin had been “reluctant to introduce evidence which could be construed as ‘playing the gender card’, the cmr said “I obtained a strong impression that the applicant’s gender was a significant factor which contributed to the unjust treatment that she suffered.”
“[T]he perception that was almost inescapable was that a number of the males involved resented any form of challenge from a forthright and capable woman.”
Cmr Cambridge found Gorlin’s dismissal over safety was invalid and she was denied natural justice. He awarded her $19,950, which was the amount she lost before getting a job.
(Ivana Gorlin v HNZ Australia Pty Ltd , FWC1321, 02/03/2016)
Australian Federation of Air Pilots boss Simon Lutton told Workforce Daily “we are very pleased with the decision of the FWC”.
“It completely vindicates our member and sends a clear message to the industry regarding the need for natural justice and procedural fairness, irrespective of gender.”
(This story first ran in Workforce Daily, 19994, 3 March, 2016)
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