Crown dealer loses unfair dismissal claim

By Charlotte Lee Updated
Blackstone’s bid for Crown still has hurdles to face

A Crown Casino dealer who said he was bullied with emojis for uploading his “Pornostar” rap to a work Facebook group has had his unfair dismissal claim denied.

Harkirat Singh was sacked for refusing to work after claiming a colleague derisively called him “prawnstar” – something the colleague denied – on the Melbourne Crown casino floor in late 2018.

The Brisbane Times reports that six months earlier, Mr Singh had uploaded a music video of rap he wrote titled ‘Pornostar’ to a Crown employee Facebook group, where it was mocked by other employees.

“One particular comment to which Mr Singh took offence included an extract of certain lyrics from Pornostar, followed by the inclusion of a prawn and a star emoji,” the Fair Work Commission finding reads.

In late 2018, Mr Singh complained to his superiors that a colleague allegedly called him “prawnstar” and left him too distressed to continue working, but when it was suggested he take the rest of his shift off, he refused.

The casino dealer then refused to leave after being told his shift would be paid out, and also refused to participate in a discussion with a human resources representative about his welfare, even with a union delegate present.

The Fair Work Commission heard evidence that Mr Singh “shushed” his manager several times, refused to accept a letter confirming he would be paid for the remainder of his shift because it was without a letterhead, and was at one point surrounded by eight to ten security guards.

“Dealers are calling me Prawnstar without fear and the management is taking action against me instead of handling my complaint,” the former employee wrote in an email a day after he was told he would be suspended.

“I raised an issue and I was the one who got suspended for 10 days.”

But Janine Young, the Fair Work Commission deputy president who wrote the judgement, found Mr Singh’s right to complain was “overtaken” by his behaviour for the rest of the night, “during which he failed to comply with multiple lawful and reasonable directions.”

Ms Young described Mr Singh’s behaviour on the night as “baffling and unreasonable.”

Crown closes its Melbourne gaming floor

Crown Resorts closed the main gaming floor at its flagship Melbourne casino last month after it was stripped of its exemption from social distancing rules aimed at arresting the spread of coronavirus.

The Age reported that the Victorian government had provided Crown’s Southbank complex with a controversial exemption from the rules limiting indoor gatherings to 100 people.

The James Packer-backed casino giant offered its own set of policies, such as deactivating every second poker machine and limiting attendance numbers at restaurants, bars, ballrooms and conference facilities.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on Saturday said the chief health officer had revoked the exemption.

“We’re not confident the measures that were in place and were appropriate are appropriate now,” Mr Andrews said.

The revocation prompted the casino to inform staff on Saturday afternoon that it would close the main gaming floor.

Smaller gambling rooms, such as the Mahogany Room, will remain operating.

Deakin University public health and gaming expert Samantha Thomas said Crown should have been playing by the same rules as everyone else from the start.

A former chief medical officer, John Horvath and a former secretary for Commonwealth Department of Health, Jane Halton, both sit on the casino’s board.

“This should have been implemented much earlier and the government should understand that pandemics trump gambling profits,” Professor Thomas said.

Calls for the temporary shutdown of Crown’s casino escalated this week after gaming giants around the world, including Las Vegas, have closed their venues in response to the pandemic.

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