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Brit teacher fired for teaching 'f-word' to Oz students wins legal suit

April 13, 2011 - Melbourne

A British teacher, who was fired from his job for teaching students in Australia the various uses of the "f-word", has won his unfair dismissal claim.

According to the Australian, Luke Webster lost his job after he was found teaching students at Mercury Colleges a worksheet that contained the swear word in every sentence, reported.

He had asked students to discuss the different meanings of the word and whether it was being used as a verb or a noun

The then-director of studies at Mercury Colleges, Andrew Waters, said the "highly offensive" actions of Webster were gross misconduct and not acceptable at the college "or any workplace in Australia".

Webster, who was employed on a temporary visa and who taught adult students whose first language was not English, was forced to leave Australia along with his partner after his firing in November 2009.

He subsequently lodged an unfair dismissal claim, giving evidence to a hearing by video link from Nottingham, England.

The teacher told the tribunal that the worksheet was "purely for educational purposes" and designed to make clear the differences between "when the word is offensive and when it is not, and to encourage students to exercise caution in its use".

While he said the word could, in some cases, be offensive, in other cases, students should not take offence when Australians used the word in its benign meaning to express surprise or frustration or for punctuation or emphasis.

The tribunal's senior deputy president, Lea Drake, found Webster's use of the profanity during the lesson a valid reason for his dismissal, but she ruled that he was not given an opportunity to respond to Waters' conclusion that he had behaved inappropriately.

She found the firing was unjust as Webster was not given an opportunity to explain the exercise in its educational context, and harsh as he was required to leave the country.

Webster could now be compensated after having his termination ruled illegal by Fair Work Australia.


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