Employee awarded “distress compensation” over redundancy

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An employer has been ordered to pay “distress compensation” to a former employee whose redundancy was found to have affected his mental health.
John Lowe was employed by Graeme Wright Transport as a digger operator when he was made redundant in 2012.
The redundancy came after Graeme Wright – the business operator – visited the workshop where Lowe worked, and was told by an employee that Lowe was refusing to fulfil truck driving duties.
Wright claimed to have told Low that their arrangement “wasn’t working”, offering to sell him the digger and support him with contract work.
However, Lowe argued that Wright had told him: “I am making you redundant. It is uneconomic to run the machine. I'm giving you three weeks’ notice”.
Following a hearing in Hamilton last month, the Employment Relations Authority made the decision this week to award Lowe $14,000 compensation “for hurt and humiliation”.
The authority member found that Lowe’s dismissal was not a genuine redundancy.
“It is my view that a fair and reasonable employer could not in his circumstances determine that to reduce costs, Mr Lowe's position was to be made redundant,” she said.
“Mr Lowe correctly, in my view, points to mixed or ulterior motives, namely his performance, which played a part in his dismissal for redundancy.”
“Mr Lowe says this was very upsetting given his long period of service for Mr Wright and Wright Transport,” the authority member continued.
However, she reduced the original amount by $1,000 because Lowe had breached “obligations of good faith” by advertising his availability while working for Wright Transport. 

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