Many employees have felt the immediate embarrassment that follows an accidental press of the ‘reply all’ function, but for one teacher at an elite Aussie school, the consequences went far further.

Stanislaw Kosiek’s 22-year career with Marist College Ashgrove in Brisbane’s north came to an abrupt end over an email criticising “the big end of town” — and for taking a trip to Bali while he was stood down.

The former science teacher took his unfair dismissal case to the Fair Work Commission, arguing he gave sufficient warning of his pre-planned Bali trip and the school’s dealings with him during the investigation breached his rights under the Fair Work Act (FWA).

In an online judgment, a Federal Court justice has ordered the case go to trial, with Mr Kosiek seeking re-employment, compensation and penalties.

According to the judgment, Mr Kosiek was fired from the school in August after writing an email with “inappropriate comments about a fellow employee” which was meant for his union representative but instead landed in the inbox of “a large number of recipients”.

The February 17 email began with Mr Kosiek saying his “old recent brain” recalls a time when “serious breaches, glitches (and) minor problems were resolved calmly, professionally and successfully”.

It continued: “Now, within the last 2 years the same long term staff continue to (be) amazing! However, recently leadership in the IT area has been less than adequate.

“Continuous leaning on past breaches for excuses for not getting current breaches … We have amazing IT staff but recently the big end of town stop (sic) feeding at the pool tuck shop and live up to their $250,000 job”.

On February 19, he “withdrew the offending emailed comment by replying to the same recipients,” the judgment stated.

The next day, the school’s head of college, Michael Newman, met with Mr Kosiek to stand him down on paid leave while they investigate the email, and gave him two days to respond to a letter in which Mr Newman said the accidental email had caused “great upset”.

According to the judgment, Mr Newman wrote that the email may have amounted to bullying and breached the school’s code of conduct and employee privacy.

He wrote there was “something quite upsetting” about the “tuck shop” comment and reference to the “big end of town” along with someone’s salary.

“This line infers that the IT staff are doing well, but management is not,” he wrote.

“Your comments appear to infer that the IT manager is making excuses, is responsible for previous breaches and that he is not taking responsibility”.

Mr Newman asked Mr Kosiek to address each allegation and provide context.

“If the allegations can be substantiated and there is no reasonable explanation for your conduct it may amount to serious misconduct … and a breach of your own personal statutory obligations to ensure the safety and privacy of children in our care”.

In response to the letter, Mr Kosiek’s lawyer wrote to Marist’s legal team to say the allegation regarding children’s safety and privacy was “simply untrue and outrageous”.

“He believes that allegation was made by Mr Newman with the intent to cause him undue distress,” his lawyer wrote.

“To make the allegation to a professional who has had children in his care for many decades is highly improper, unnecessary and inflammatory”.

Mr Newman later apologised for the reference to children’s safety and privacy.

Between April and May, Mr Kosiek was approved to take sick leave instead of using long service leave during his stand down period, after providing management with a medical certificate.

On May 11, Mr Koseik wrote to the school’s deputy head of college, Charles Brauer, informing him that he had “arranged for an overseas holiday” between May 12 and May 23 last year, at a time when he had approved long service leave.

He wrote that his medical advice was that he was able to travel overseas and, given that he was stood down, he was applying for leave without pay for the duration of his trip.

After the internal investigation and several conversations between the parties’ lawyers, the school decided it would not punish Mr Koseik beyond a formal warning and he returned to teaching on July 11.

According to court documents, three days later, Mr Koseik directly emailed the head of IT to apologise for the February 17 email.

But just two weeks after returning to work, Mr Koseik was sacked.

He was called into meetings with management and then issued a letter from the school which blamed his employment termination on travelling to Bali during a “period of alleged unfitness” and while under sick leave.

It also stated he was “lawfully and reasonably directed” to issue the apology to the head of IT through Mr Brauer, but instead emailed them directly and in a way that was “not considered adequate”.

“It appears that you have demonstrated a pattern of falling short of the standards required by your Employment Agreement, the College’s Code of Conduct and policies and our Marist values,” the letter read.

But Mr Koseik hit back, telling the school he had provided notice of his trip to Bali and the circumstances surrounding his sick leave, was not instructed to apologise to the head of IT through Mr Brauer and had been targeted for exercising his workplace rights under the FWA.

To the Federal Court, Mr Koseik argued Marist breached his rights under the FWA to make a complaint or inquiry concerning his employment, have a safe workplace and not be bullied, take personal leave by reason of illness or injury and to initiate or participate in a dispute resolution process under the EBA.

Justice Berna Joan Collier ruled there was a “serious question to be tried that the termination of the applicant’s employment was because of his exercise of a right to complain about his supervisor Mr Newman”.

She accepted the evidence showed Mr Koseik “had been completely honest with the first respondent concerning the basis on which he wished to travel to Bali during his sick leave, including that his attending medical practitioner had endorsed that travel as beneficial to the applicant’s health”.

“The email to Mr Brauer dated 11 May 2023 clearly provided that information in advance of the applicant’s relevant travel, and there was no objection or expression of concern made by the first respondent at that time”.

“The material before the court rather suggests that … the respondents had either misplaced or forgotten that the applicant had sent Mr Brauer that email”.

“The appropriate order is to dismiss the applicant’s claim for interlocutory relief, and further order that the substantive issues be heard as soon as possible by a judge of this court”.

Marist College Ashgrove has been contacted for comment.

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