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A former Rotorua police civilian staff member, who passed confidential information from computer intelligence files to a third party, has been awarded $9000 for unjustified dismissal.
The Employment Relations Authority ordered the payment after finding the investigation into Christine Stewart's actions was flawed.
She had originally sought $15,000 for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.
Ms Stewart was a non-sworn intelligence support officer at Rotorua police station, responsible for collecting and processing information. She had an unblemished 23-year work record that included nine years with the Transport Ministry before its traffic service was merged with police in 1992.
Rotorua police investigated her in 2009 after complaints that she had given confidential information to third parties, which she had received from computer files stored on the national police intelligence database.
Police alleged she lied during the investigation and her actions amounted to serious misconduct.
A second police investigation was also made into her use of the internet during work time to access the Trade Me website.
She resigned in July 2010, before the investigations were completed. Both investigations were later found to be flawed because of a lack of proper disclosure by police.
Before her resignation, staff complained Ms Stewart was untrustworthy, and her behaviour was annoying and disturbing in an open-plan office.
She was told that, because of restructuring, she would not be given high-security clearance to work with sensitive information, and would be offered another role.
She considered the proposed changes as threatening, and her supervisors' attitude as volatile, intimidating, hostile and aggressive.
A Christchurch man who was fired after smoking marijuana while working on a building site has been awarded more than $13,000 in compensation.
In a decision released last month, the Employment Relations Authority ruled that Matthew O'Connell was unjustifiably dismissed from Consortium Construction Ltd (CCL), where he worked as a carpenter.
O'Connell was working on the third-floor scaffolding in an earthquake-damaged building on December 9, 2010, when site foreman Jonathan Small smelt cannabis and identified it coming from O'Connell before telling him to put it out.
Small reported the incident to CCL development manager Danny Whiting, who, just before hometime on December 10, 2010, told O'Connell about the allegation and that his employment would end.
O'Connell denied he was smoking marijuana.
In a second conversation that day, they discussed a drug test, with O'Connell believing he would be dismissed if he did not agree to it rather than that he had been fired.
On the Saturday, after taking some advice, O'Connell declined a drug test when he spoke to Whiting and turned up to work on Monday, when he was given a letter confirming his dismissal.
ERA member Philip Cheyne said that during the dismissal Whiting never told O'Connell any details of the allegation or its source and did not give him any opportunity to comment, refute or explain before dismissing him.
In deciding O'Connell's dismissal was unjustified, Cheyne acknowledged that both parties were equally responsible for the circumstances giving rise to the grievance.
Cheyne said O'Connell's ''blameworthy contribution involved taking marijuana to work, carelessly incorporating some into his roll-your-own cigarette with the tobacco and briefly smoking that cigarette until challenged'' while working in a high-risk environment.
CCL was ordered to pay O'Connell $13,760.
A Westport labourer who was fired after he ''frightened and intimidated'' one colleague and had a physical fight with another has been awarded more than $5000 for unfair dismissal.
An Employment Relations Authority (ERA) decision released this week ruled that Geotech did not follow correct procedure when firing Andrew Murphy.
Murphy, a labourer, was dismissed by the company in 2011 after two incidents involving colleagues.
In the first, he had a ''minor physical altercation'' with a fellow crew member during a job. He received a verbal warning after the fight telling him to act more ''maturely''.
A few months later, Murphy was at a health and safety meeting when he complained that the back door of his van was loose and ''dangerous''.
One of the managers suggested he take the van into the workshop and fix it himself, to which Murphy reacted angrily, swearing. He said it was not ''his job'' to fix the van.
When company administrator Tania Miller told him it was his job to fix the van, Murphy yelled at her.
She gave evidence to the ERA that he was ''agitated and acting in an aggressive manner".
The company's human resource manager said Miller told him she had felt ''frightened and intimidated'' by the incident.
Murphy was suspended and, following a meeting, dismissed in a letter.
''We have concluded that you did verbally abuse and behave in an aggressive and threatening manner towards another employee,'' the letter said.
''This had not been the first time that your behaviour had been so extreme.''
ERA member David Appleton ruled that it was reasonable that Geotech dismissed Murphy as his behaviour towards Miller amounted to ''serious misconduct''.
''Murphy's reaction was both excessive and created an intimidating environment which frightened a member of staff,'' he said.
A woman who was sacked by an Auckland office equipment supplier without any notice or explanation after just one month on the job has been awarded more than $8,000 in compensation.
Melinda van Meygaarden started work at Intagr8 on March 5 and was summarily dismissed on April 13, according to an Employment Relations Authority determination.
The company said it had dismissed her under the 90-day trial period clause in her employment agreement, but she said - and the authority accepted - she had never been provided with such an agreement.
The company was unable to produce a copy of the agreement, and claimed van Meygaarden must have removed it from the office when she was dismissed. She strongly denied that suggestion, and the authority agreed she had not been provided with a written employment agreement while employed.
Authority member Rachel Larmer also questioned the evidence given by the company, saying human resources manager Helen Taylor and general manager Stephen Mascarenhas had assured her they had prepared their own witness statements, and denied copying and pasting evidence.
"I find that denial hard to accept," Larmer said, pointing out that several paragraphs of their evidence were identical, including getting a date wrong. "Such actions undermine a witness's credibility," she noted.
Larmer said the company claimed it had performance concerns over van Meygaarden, but offered no documentation to back that up.
"Integr8's witnesses were unable to be specific about the nature of their concerns, including when they arose, what they consisted of, why there were considered to be Ms van Meygaarden's responsibility, or even the names of the customers who allegedly complained."
In dismissing van Meygaarden, Integr8 "failed to follow even the most basic procedural fairness and natural justice requirements".
A former Unitec department head has won $33,000 in compensation after he was fired for publicly questioning the standards of a new plumbing apprenticeship.
Garry Cruickshank took his case to the Employment Court where Judge Graeme Colgan ruled the former head of plumbing and gasfitting at Unitec had been unjustifiably dismissed.
Judge Colgan said Cruickshank and his employer became engaged in a fierce battle over the quality of proposed plumbing courses, which resulted in the department head's sacking.
He said the issue between both parties concerned a matter of public safety, as the training of plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers was "of the utmost importance''.
"A number of people involved in, or affected by these activities die or are seriously injured from foul water backflows, exploding water cylinders and explosions and fires caused by faulty gas installations."
The judge did not rule on the issue that sparked the confrontation in which Cruickshank alleged the Plumbing, Gasfitting and Drainlaying Industry Training Organisation knowingly created a substandard course.
Cruickshank was dismissed by Unitec because Unitec considered that letters he wrote to employers about his concerns were incorrect and or misleading. The court found that the letters were not incorrect.
"What Mr Cruickshank did for which he was dismissed, was a bold and risky challenge to what he sincerely believed was Unitec's unacceptable lowering of standards in the training and, therefore, qualification of plumbing and gasfitting apprentices," the judge said.
He said Unitec had not acted properly by dismissing Cruickshank, saying a fair and reasonable employer would have investigated the serious allegations fully and fairly.
Judge Colgan ordered Unitec pay Cruickshank $25,000 in lost pay, plus $8000 in compensation for unjustified disadvantage.
An untrained panelbeater who believed he would be employed as a trainee was unjustifiably dismissed after doing burnouts in the office driveway and brawling with his employer in the street.
Richard Longstaff was employed at Pro Finish Panel and Paint, in Pakuranga, for nine days before he was dismissed without pay.
Employment Relations Authority member Rachel Larmer found Longstaff should have been paid $700 in unpaid wages but denied his requested distress compensation after it was found he "became unnecessarily and inappropriately confrontational and aggressive" towards company director Floued Mosa.
"He threatened Mr Mosa's family, abused him on a number of different occasions and even physically assaulted him," she said.
During his employment Longstaff sanded through part of the primer on a vehicle due to have its final coat of paint that day.
He was sent home by Mosa, but returned the following day to ask if he would still be paid.
Larmer found that, despite both parties claiming different stories, Longstaff returned the following day in an angry mood yelling and swearing.
Mosa claimed he told Longstaff "you have fired yourself" after Longstaff made threats against his family during this time.
Longstaff laid a complaint with police that Mosa tried to hit him with a belt sander, but police records show Longstaff had done wheel spins up and down the driveway and nearly taken out a rubbish bin.
Larmer found there was an actual dismissal at the point when Mosa told Longstaff he had fired himself.
After regular employment ceased both parties were arrested for fighting in a public place on June 5. They both received police warnings. The ERA found that Longstaff had been driving near Profinish's driveway when he saw Mosa's van.
A Wanaka vehicle workshop owner unjustifiably fired a Filipino man and must repay almost $15,000, the Employment Relations Authority says.
Vincent Villarete worked as a mechanic at Wanaka Tyres & Automotive for two years on an Immigration New Zealand visa. A 40-hour-a-week contract was signed but Mr Villarete said he was unjustifiably sacked on September 29 last year when the owner, Gregory Noye, told him to find another job and that he did not like his attitude. Mr Villarete sought almost $10,000 in lost wages and compensation of $35,000.
Mr Noye claimed Mr Villarete quit and there were issues of competence.
Mr Villarete's deportation was on hold pending the outcome of the case.
Authority member Helen Doyle's decision said a written warning was given about performance but Mr Villarete did not accept there was a discussion about the warning. The mechanic was also spoken to about the incorrect fitting of a steering-rack bolt and use of a tyre-fitting machine.
At one point, he accused Mr Noye of being racist and disrespectful to Filipinos, and called him a bad man.
Mr Noye shook his finger at him and told him to leave. He told the authority that Mr Villarete removed his gloves, threw them down and said, "You can't fire me. I quit."
Mr Villarete sent a text 15 minutes later that Mr Noye considered threatening, so he called the police. He then wrote a termination letter.
The text said: "U will pay me everything. See u around! Watch your mouth by discriminated filipino. Who do you think you are by judging us! You better watch out! Respect!"
Mr Villarete's dismissal was unjustified and he was unable to find other work because his immigration status prevented him doing so without sponsorship, the decision said.
A Christchurch company has been ordered to pay $8000 for wrongful dismissal after it sacked an employee for suspected drug dealing at work.
The Lyttelton company disregarded accounts of the incident by those involved and relied on the worker's "profuse sweating" when questioned to determine his guilt, the Employment Relations Authority has found.
Troy Henry was fired from Lyttelton Engineering in March last year after rumours of drug dealing in the workplace.
A supposed drug deal was caught on specially installed cameras. A staff member met Henry at his car and left with a small plastic bag.
Henry said the staff member was borrowing money from him and the bag contained money.
Management believed the bag contained drugs. At the first meeting, Henry "encouraged Lyttelton Engineering to get the police involved and offered the opportunity for his locker, car and home to all be searched", the authority said.
The man accused of receiving the drugs denied any involvement with Henry, even though he was told of the footage of him.
The following day, the staff member said he was borrowing money.
He later "vehemently denied" buying drugs from Henry.
Another staff member told the authority he had observed the transaction.
The authority found Lyttelton Engineering discounted that staff member's evidence as unreliable because of "earlier experience [with the man] ... on unrelated matters".
The other staff member's evidence was discounted because he changed his story.
Henry's evidence was considered dubious because of his demeanour at his first interview, where he "sweated profusely and appeared nervous and ill at ease".
Lyttelton Engineering general manager Doug Cockerell described Henry as having "rivers of sweat".
A woman unjustifiably dismissed by a Christchurch food company has been awarded more than $22,000 by the Employment Relations Authority.
But whether Gayle Rangiwananga receives the money is a moot point, because Cado Holdings Limited's sole director and shareholder Catherine Doherty told the authority in a phone conference last September that the company was insolvent and would be wound up.
However authority member Philip Cheyne, in his determination issued today, said the company, which traded as Eats on Orbell, was still on the Register of Companies and had not been wound up.
When he held an investigation meeting on February 19 into Ms Rangiwananga's claims, no one appeared on behalf of the company.
Ms Rangiwananga said she was given a letter of warning on September 3, 2008, without any prior discussion or opportunity to comment. The letter referred to documented customer and staff complaints since June 9 about her alleged rude, disrespectful and belligerent behaviour.
Mr Cheyne said the company had not provided any of this documentation to either Ms Rangiwananga or the authority.
Ms Doherty told Ms Rangiwananga to attend a meeting on September 4 to discuss the issues raised, and refused her request for a deferral until September 8 so she could get advice and/or representation.
At the meeting Ms Doherty simply reiterated the allegations and conclusions contained in the letter.
"None of this is consistent with the actions of a fair and reasonable employer or how such an employer should act," Mr Cheyne said.
Following the warning, the working environment was stressful and difficult.
On October 9, 2008, Ms Rangiwananga attended work as normal and Ms Doherty spoke to her about a customer complaint and she provided an explanation.
However she was upset about the way Ms Doherty had raised the complaint and rang a friend for advice.
A Palmerston North equestrian centre has been ordered to pay a former employee $16,000 after it was found her dismissal was never explained.
A Employment Relations Authority finding released yesterday found Leeanne Faulkner was unjustifiably dismissed from Tielcey Park Equestrian Centre.
Tielcey Park manager Damon Forde told Ms Faulkner on April 13 she was suspended on full pay and had to leave the property within an hour. Ms Faulkner was paid only $220, the outstanding pay up to the date of of her suspension.
ERA member Dzintra King said Ms Faulkner had not been told what she had done wrong.
Ms King said the authority tried to contact Tielcey Park several times with no response.
Mr Forde did attend the ERA hearing on August 31 where "he said he had made a conscious decision not to engage in the process and maintained that the applicant had been justifiably dismissed".
Ms King said a representative of Ms Faulkner had twice written to Mr Forde asking about their client's employment status and the reason for her suspension.
During the hearing Mr Forde produced two letters he said he had posted to Ms Faulkner in April. Ms Faulkner said she did not received the letters and Ms King said she had "no hesitation" in saying the letters were never sent to Ms Faulkner.
Tielcey Park's website said it was "the largest equestrian centre in the lower North Island of New Zealand".
Mr Forde was described on the website as having "taken on the management responsibilities at Tielcey Park".
Ms King ordered that Ms Faulkner should be paid $10,100, plus $6000 as compensation.
A waitress fired for not charging unhappy customers for their meals has been found to have been dismissed unfairly by the Employment Relations Authority.
Xavia Jordyn-Edser was fired from Nando's restaurant in Beckenham after giving away 10 meals to patrons who had complained their chicken meal was undercooked.
Jordyn-Edser, a high school pupil, told the authority that one night in August last year about half the meals served were returned by customers to be recooked. It was a busy night and the restaurant was understaffed.
A group of 10 had complained that the chicken in some of their meals was uncooked in the middle. They refused to pay without speaking to the manager.
Jordyn-Edser said she asked manager Roger Ameriks to speak to the group, but he indicated he was too busy.
She agreed not to charge the group for their meals, believing they would pay the $250 later if asked. Later that night, she told Ameriks what had happened.
He later suggested she would have to pay for the meals after he was unable to get hold of the group, she said.
Ameriks said Jordyn-Edser failed to tell him about the issue with the food until after the customers had left.
He also alleged she gave confusing directions to kitchen staff and had stolen chicken and chips from the kitchen. In addition, he had received a complaint about her attitude from a customer.
He sent her a text on September 10 advising her not to come back to work until further notice.
She attended a disciplinary meeting on September 14, and was advised shortly after by text and a letter that she had been fired.
Jordyn-Edser said surveillance footage would have shown she did not take the chicken. Eating chips from the kitchen that would not have been eaten by customers was common for staff of the restaurant.
Air New Zealand has been ordered to pay an employee more than $13,000 in compensation after he was unjustifiably dismissed over suspicions he used his job to look at pornographic websites.
The Employment Relations Authority also ordered that Tony Wills be reinstated, after ruling the airline had insufficient evidence that he intended to access objectionable websites, or deliberately did so.
From 1998 till July 2005, Mr Wills worked at Air New Zealand's Christchurch engineering base as a storeman.
His duties included sourcing spare parts, a task involving extensive computer use.
After a company audit of engineering staff Internet use in 2004, four employees were dismissed.
In March 2005, Mr Wills was also given a company letter outlining its concerns with his computer use.
As one of the investigators was on sick leave a formal meeting was delayed.
A human resources consultant said when Mr Wills was taken through Air NZ's numerous policy documents addressing Internet use, he said that he was not aware of any of the policies or a later update.
Mr Wills accepted he recalled browsing one e-booklet on the subject, and remembered a cartoon of a "Miss December" which was partially obscured by a message window indicating it was not a work-related image.
Authority member Paul Montgomery said the company had failed to ensure Mr Wills was fully instructed on internet use policies.
Warnings were issued before Mr Wills gained internet access in late 2003. Only elements of the document relating to e-mail would have been relevant to him.
Mr Montgomery said the company's Internet policies were in part contradictory.
He criticised it for delays with the disciplinary meetings and failing to consider Mr Wills' good employment record.
Tension between a Kaikoura woman's family and her boss preceded the woman being unfairly dismissed from her job, the Employment Relations Authority has found.
Rachel Manawatu, who worked as a budget adviser for Te Tai O Marokura Charitable Trust, was granted compensation of $12,000, reduced to $9000 after the authority found she was partly responsible for the ending of her contract.
Ms Manawatu missed work for more than three days from lunchtime March 23, 2009, without giving an explanation.
Trust chief executive Riria Allen delivered a letter to Ms Manawatu on March 27 saying she was deemed to have abandoned her employment and that her employment had ended.
The authority found the trust should have found out whether there was good reason for Ms Manawatu's absence before taking action.
Ms Manawatu was not allowed to discuss the matter when she returned to work and when she suggested a hohourongo or mediation the trust declined.
Not being able to discuss the matter face to face affected Ms Manawatu deeply, the authority said.
Ms Manawatu had sold shares to pay her mortgage and suffered insomnia.
A meeting had been arranged for 1pm on March 23, 2009, to review Ms Manawatu's files, case notes and time sheets.
On March 15, 2009, Ms Allen's brother was voted out as chairman of Takahanga Marae and Ms Manawatu's brother took over as interim chairman.
On the morning of March 23 there was a fight at a school between a niece of Ms Manawatu and a niece of Ms Allen.
Ms Manawatu's niece agreed to stay at home until March 26 and was looked after by Ms Manawatu for part of the week.
Despite leaving messages, calling into her employee's house and asking staff, Ms Allen was unable to contact Ms Manawatu.
On March 30 Ms Manawatu returned to the office and said she had not seen the letter.