Australia’s Court of Appeal has been tasked with deciding whether farting can be considered a form of bullying after an engineer sued his former employer for allowing a supervisor to harass him in several ways, including by farting in his presence, as part of an alleged conspiracy to end his employment.
56-year-old David Hingst sued his former employer, Construction Engineering, in 2017, seeking damages of 1.8 million Australian dollars ($1.28 million).
During the trial, Hingst, who chose to represent himself, claimed that his ex-colleague at the company, Greg Short, was a serial farter and had repeatedly bullied him by way of flatulence.
The engineer told Justice Rita Zammit that Short would come in his small, windowless office and fart several times a day, which apparently caused him serious psychological stress. After hearing the testimonies of both parties, the judge ruled that this was not bullying, but “typical banter or mucking around” and dismissed the case. However, Hingst recently appealed the decision, claiming he didn’t get a fair trial.
“I would be sitting with my face to the wall and he would come into the room, which was small and had no windows,” David Hingst told the Australian Associated Press after his hearing at the Court of Appeal, on Monday. “He would fart behind me and walk away. He would do this five or six times a day.”
As a result of the constant farting, Hingst reportedly sprayed deodorant on his colleague and called him “Mr Stinky”. He told the court that the flatulence was only part of the bullying, adding that his former supervisor verbally abused him about his work performance and made bullying phone calls, during which he called him “an idiot”.
During the first trial, Greg Short said he didn’t really recall breaking wind near Mr Hingst, but admitted that he may have done it once or twice. However, he insisted that any farts he may have released in his presence were in no way meant to cause his colleague distress.
During the recent appeal hearing, Hingst insisted that his former supervisor’sbehaviour was part of a conspiracy to cause him to lose his job, and complained that it had caused him “severe stress”. He added that he hadn’t received a fair trial the first time, as he felt under pressure from Justice Zammit who was allegedly biased against him.
Justice Phillip Priest, from the Australian Court of Appeal, disagreed with Hingst’s claims, saying that in his opinion, Justice Zammit had shown “remarkable latitude” during the 18-day proceedings.
Hingst chances of winning this appeal on grounds of bullying by flatulence are slim, as an article from last year states that it wasn’t actually the farting that bothered him, but the fact that his employment was terminated.
The 56-year-old reportedly admitted that had he not lost his job and had other incidents – like the bullying phone calls – not occurred, the flatulence would “never have been a big issue”. Judge Zammit found it was Hingst’s firing that made him return obsessively to the flatulence episode.
The Court of Appeal is due to deliver a ruling in this bizarre case on Friday.