A Hitler parody video has cost a BP worker his job, in what unions believe is the first case of its kind in Australia.
The worker posted a version of the Hiter ‘Downfall’ meme video to a private Facebook group.
The AWU subsequently described the dismissal as ‘”ludicrous” after the Fair Work Commission rejected his unfair dismissal claim.
Hitler parody video costs BP worker his job
Scott Tracey worked for BP as a technician at its refinery at Kwinana in Western Australia since 2011.
In September, Tracey’s wife made a parody video about protracted Enterprise Agreement negotiations taking place at the time.
The meme features a clip from the movie ‘Downfall’.
The movie shows Hitler in a tense and stressful meeting as he learns he has lost World War Two.
Users are able to replace the subtitles from the original movie with their own.
Hundreds of users have posted different versions of the memes over the past decade.
For example, one titled, ‘Usain Bolt Breaks 100m World Record and Hitler Reacts’ has had 4 million views on YouTube since 2009.
Tracey posted his wife’s version of the video to a private Facebook group, and later showed it to workmates using a work computer.
BP says meme portrayed management as ‘Nazis’
When BP became aware of the video, it launched an investigation, and subsequently sacked Tracey for breaching company policies.
BP described the video as “inappropriate and offensive” and furthermore, suggests BP management are Nazis.
Tracey told the Commission described the video as ‘a joke’ and not meant to cause offence.
The Commission eventually sided with BP, with deputy president Melanie Binet saying:
“The Hitler video had the potential to undermine, demean and denigrate the BP senior management team amongst an audience which they were charged to lead.”
She added it is wrong for workers to think that labelling something as parody is a “get out of jail free card”.
Ms Binet said a reasonable person will consider the Hitler video “inappropriate and offensive.”
Union considering appeal
As a result of the decision, Daniel Walton from the AWU said BP and the Commission had misunderstood the meme.
Walton said BP’s response is an over-reaction, and is therefore considering appealing the unfair dismissal decision on behalf of Tracey.
“As anyone with a smartphone and a sense of humour can tell you, Hitler Downfall parody videos are not about comparing anyone to actual Nazis.
“It’s about depicting a high-stress group conflict situation and overlaying details about a current event.
“Like most people I’ve seen versions of these meme about sport, politics, reality TV — it’s very well established.
“I understand that if you were completely unfamiliar with the meme you might think a comparison was being made to Nazis.
“But that’s just not what this video means in 2019. So this is a worker who has been sacked because of a cultural misunderstanding.
Miles Heffernan from Fair Work Claims says the case is a reminder to workers about the perils of social media.
“The minute you post something controversial or offensive that relates to your employer, you can expect trouble,” he said.
“While I find the Hitler ‘Downfall’ videos hilarious, I can understand why BP didn’t see the humour in Mr Tracey’s version.
“Always think twice before you post anything on social media that is in any way work related – because it could cost you your job.”
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