$10K compensation for helpful co-worker

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A man who was fired for conspiring to defraud his employer has been awarded $10,000 compensation after the Employment Relations Authority found he was just helping a co-worker out of “the spirit of collegiality.”

Mount Riley Wines and Estates Limited dismissed Michael Momo on the grounds that he was pruning vines for other workers for personal gain – Momo was paid on an hourly basis whereas the other workers were paid for every vine they pruned.

"The vines that Mr. Momo pruned were claimed by other employees on a piece basis and so we were effectively paying for vines to be pruned twice – once to the pruner on whose row [he] was pruning and then [his] hourly wage,” complained Mount Riley.

The company was convinced Momo was accepting bribes or backhanders for helping other workers prune more vines and boost their pay.

However, the Marlborough-based man denied the allegations and claimed he only pruned vines allocated to other workers when he had nothing else to do. 

"He says that he explained that, otherwise, he would be being paid to stand around doing nothing," authority member Craig Appleton said in the determination.  

Ultimately, Appleton agreed with Momo and confirmed he had been unjustly dismissed.

“[Mount Riley Wines] had no proof that backhanders were being paid to staff for helping piece workers prune their rows,” he stressed, adding that “no attempt whatsoever was made to conduct an investigation with Mr Momo save for a very short conversation a few days before his dismissal.”

Mount Riley was ordered to pay Momo $2,637 as compensation for lost wages, and $8,000 in compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings. 

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