Employee sacked for using Hitler meme wins pay out

A scene from Downfall, which was parodied in the meme
Constantin Film/Ard/Degeto/Kobal/Shutterstock

A BP employee in Australia who lost his job after sending colleagues a Hitler meme parodying the company’s wage negotiations has been awarded $200,000 (£109,000) after winning his unfair dismissal case.

Scott Tracey, a technician based in Western Australia, used the well-known meme from the film Downfall in what he argued was intended to be a humorous comparison to his bosses during wage negotiations.

In the scene from the 2004 film, Adolf Hitler angrily confronts his generals in his bunker. It is often parodied with alternative subtitles.

BP said the meme was “highly inappropriate and offensive” and dismissed Tracey. It said the video “attributes to Hitler’s character” comments that the refinery manager made during the wage negotiations.

However, after a two-year legal battle, Tracey has won his claim for unfair dismissal and compensation for lost earnings. He also won his job back earlier this year.

Australia’s national workplace relations tribunal, the Fair Work Commission, initially ruled in BP’s favour, but Tracey won on appeal after insisting that the video was intended to be humorous and that he had not meant to offend anybody or compare the company to the Nazi party. He said that the video did not mention BP or any of its employees specifically.

He was awarded $177,325 in wages and lost bonuses, minus tax, and $24,070 in superannuation or pension payments.

BP argued that his award should be reduced to $150,000, as Tracey had sent the video to colleagues which amounted to misconduct. The firm also argued that Tracey could have found alternative work during the trial, so should be awarded less for loss of earnings. Both points were dismissed by the tribunal

Brad Gandy, secretary at Australian Workers Union, told the Sydney Morning Herald: “To dig in and drag an honest worker through nearly two years of stress and uncertainty, all because a few stuffed shirts didn’t get a joke, is poor corporate behaviour.”

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