Qantas shares hit turbulence amid $250,000 fine for 'shameful' conduct

ASX 200 investors are bidding down the Qantas share price on Wednesday.

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Qantas Airways Ltd (ASX: QAN) shares are catching some headwinds today.

Shares in the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) airline stock closed yesterday trading for $5.12. In early afternoon trade on Wednesday, shares are changing hands for $5.045 apiece, down 1.5%.

For some context the ASX 200 is down 0.17% at this same time.

This follows a court ruling finding Qantas guilty of illegally standing down a ground services worker during the early months of the global pandemic.

ASX 200 airline guilty of 'shameful' conduct

Qantas shares could face more brand damage after New South Wales District Court Judge David Russell fined the company's subsidiary, Qantas Ground Services (QGS), $250,000 for illegally standing down lift truck driver Theo Seremetidis in early 2020.

Seremetidis, an elected health and safety representative, was working out of Sydney International Airport at the time.

As ABC News reported, Qantas took action against Seremetidis after he expressed his worries that personnel cleaning planes arriving from China could be at risk of being infected by COVID-19.

Last year, the court ruled that the airline had engaged in discriminatory conduct in unfairly cutting Seremetidis off from staff who sought out his help. Last week, Qantas agreed to pay him $21,000 for economic and non-economic losses.

The $250,000 conviction today (of which the prosecutor will receive half) came after Russell determined the actions by QGS were deliberate rather than inadvertent.

According to Russell (quoted by ABC News):

The conduct against Mr Seremetidis was quite shameful. Even when he was stood down and under investigation, QGS attempted to manufacture additional reasons for its actions.

He added that "The effect of the conduct of QGS upon Mr Seremetidis personally was traumatic and long-lasting."

Responding to the ruling that could be pressuring Qantas shares today, a spokesperson for the ASX 200 airline said, "We agreed to compensation for Theo Seremetidis and the court has today made orders for that compensation to be paid."

They added that Qantas "acknowledged in court the impact that this incident had on Mr Seremetidis and apologised to him".

How have Qantas shares been tracking longer-term?

Qantas shares have struggled over the past year, down 23%.

Despite that retrace, the ASX 200 airline's shares have more than doubled since the depths of the pandemic-driven sell-off in early 2020.

Motley Fool contributor Bernd Struben has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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