The Australian Public Service has the right to sack bureaucrats who make false bullying claims against their bosses, the Fair Work Commission has found.
The commission has thrown out an unfair dismissal claim by a north Queensland Environment Department employee, who was fired after trying to frame his supervisor as a bully and plotting with a colleague to ''play the indigenous card'' to entrap him.
The case could have repercussions across the public service, which faces a rising tide of bullying complaints and a growing workers' compensation bill for psychological injuries.
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John Hunter, an executive level 1 officer with the department's indigenous land management program, was sacked in May for multiple breaches of the public service code of conduct in his ''vexatious'' and ''deceptive'' pursuit of his boss, Neil Bensley.
The commission found Mr Hunter began complaining of threatening behaviour by Mr Bensley after the manager asked his subordinate to improve his performance and attendance at work.
The department also alleged, while sacking Mr Hunter, that he made a false claim for workers' compensation for a psychological injury as a result of the alleged bullying.
But the commission made no finding on that aspect of the case, noting it was before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The trouble started in August 2011 when Mr Bensley, who previously worked alongside Mr Hunter, was promoted to executive level 2 and began to insist that Mr Hunter improve his performance.
By the following May, Mr Hunter had compiled a ''grievance document'' running to 100 pages against his boss and set in train the official process to have Mr Bensley investigated under the code of conduct.
But after a long process, the department's professional standards section found Mr Hunter's allegations to be false and vexatious and a counter-investigation resulted in his sacking in May 2013.
In his appeal to the commission, Mr Hunter claimed the Environment Department had not proved its allegations against him, that its inquiries were flawed and that his ''unblemished'' record had been ignored.
He also complained that he had not been allowed to use witness statements from two colleagues, including one who had also been sacked for misconduct, who would also allege bullying by Mr Bensley.
But commissioner Paula Spencer rejected those arguments and found Mr Hunter and his two colleagues had colluded to have their boss removed from his job.
The most damning evidence of efforts to ''entrap'' Mr Bensley was an email from Mr Hunter to co-worker Dave Thompson, who was also sacked.
''It's deadly, now we can really play the Indigenous card bros,'' Mr Hunter wrote. ''LOLs … put on your seat belt cos we going for a ride lol.''
Ms Spencer found Mr Hunter's allegations were without merit, that the personality clash between the two did not justify the ''fabricated'' bullying allegations, and the Environment Department was justified in sacking its employees.