Australian Sacked for Sharing a Hitler Meme Just Won a Big Payout

Photo: Constantin Film

Question: How much does it cost to fire an employee for sharing a Hitler meme?  The answer: about $200,000, at least in this case.

An oil refinery worker has been awarded compensation for being unfairly terminated for sharing a meme from the movie Downfall.

The popular meme format uses Hitler’s furious reaction to finding out that his defeat is imminent, and overlays them with new subtitles to parody different topics.

BP fired Scott Tracey in 2018 for the distributing the video to fellow employees during wage negotiations.

Why did BP fire him over a Hitler meme?

The company alleged that the video was “inappropriate and offensive” because it compared Tracey’s bosses to Nazis.

But Tracey argued that the meme was supposed to be funny and didn’t specifically target his bosses or BP.

In 2019, Australia’s workplace tribunal, the Fair Work Commission, denied Tracey’s claim that he was unfairly dismissed.

Why was the sacking unfair?

But in February this year, a full bench of the Commission overturned the decision and reinstated Tracey. The Commission said the Hitler meme format was so popular that it was “culturally dissociat[ed]” it from its original context, and that it did not directly compare Tracey’s bosses to Nazis.

“What it does do is to compare, for satirical purposes, the position BP had reached in the enterprise bargaining process as at September 2018 to the situation facing Hitler and the Nazi regime in April 1945,” the Commission said.

At the time, the Australian Workers’ Union national secretary Daniel Walton, was pleased with the decision.

“Workers should be able to take the piss out of management with their colleagues in their own time. The day that right is lost would be a very bleak day for Australia,” he said.

On Monday, Tracey was awarded more than $200,000 in compensation for lost wages and superannuation during his two year legal battle.

Truly, an milestone in Australian workers’ right to meme.