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Most employees have felt the prickly urge to tell their bosses where to go at some point in their career, so it’s easy to empathise with Steven Kazmar who, in a fit of pique, told his supervisor to “shove his roster up his arse”. The store worker was given his marching orders the next day. However, six months later, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) ruled that Kazmar’s outburst did not warrant his dismissal and awarded him compensation.

Many others have come before the FWC after being fired in response to their potty mouths. These cases, and the consternation they create, beg the question of where the boundaries of bad language lie.

Section 4A (1) of the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW) criminalises the use of offensive language in, near or within hearing of a public place or a school, with penalties as steep as $660. On this basis, 3,399 offensive language incidents were recorded in NSW in the year to September 2017, according to NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research figures.

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