Former owner personally liable over unfair dismissal

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The former owner of a now-defunct grocery store has been ordered to pay thousands of dollars in compensation after an employee was unfairly fired in 2016.

Jamie Blennerhassett and his wife Joanne were the directors and equal shareholders of Good Food Trading Company Limited, which owned a Nosh food store in Mount Manganui.

While the store is no longer in operation, Jamie Blennerhassett has been found personally liable for the dismissal and must pay almost $17,000 to a former deli worker.

The employee, Stacey Sissons, was dismissed from the store after bosses received customer complaints that someone had been serving food without wearing gloves.

However, the Employment Relations Authority found no evidence to prove the complaints has been fully investigated and member of the authority Robin Arthur also said bosses has failed to properly inform Sissons or give her a chance to respond.

"As a result the employer's actions in terminating her employment, in the way it was done and for the supposed reasons it was done, were unjustified,” Arthur explained in his decision.

However, with Good Food Trading now in liquidation, it has now fallen to the firm’s former owner to pay up. Jamie Blennerhassett was found responsible over his wife because he had signed Sissons’ employment agreement on behalf of Nosh Mount Maunganui.

“Jamie Blennerhassett is personally liable for remedies awarded to Stacey Sissons because Good Food Trading Company Limited was an undisclosed principal at the outset of the employment relationship with her,” Arthur wrote in his decision.

An undisclosed principal is a person who uses an agent for negotiations with a third party who has no knowledge of the identity of the agent's principal. As a result, the third party does not know to look to the real principal in a dispute.

Ultimately, Blennerhassett was ordered to pay $3,177.50 in lost wages, $10,000 as compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings, $1,684.94 as arrears of wages and holiday pay, and $2,071.56 as a contribution to Sissons’ costs of representation and expenses in successfully pursuing her grievance.

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Indebted employee wins $10K dismissal claim

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