Wayward manager costly

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A Dunedin removal firm has been ordered to pay a former worker more than $10,000 in lost wages and compensation after one of its managers allegedly hit the worker with a step ladder and later threatened to “smash him”.

The plaintiff began working for the firm as a driver and loader in October 2011. He told the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) that he and his manager had argued during the Christmas function that year and that his manager had swung a metal stepladder at him, resulting in injuries to his ribs and arms. Although the police were called, the worker didn’t lay charges.

In a statement of evidence, the manager denied that it was him, but he did not attend the ERA hearing nor give any reason for his absence.

Early the following year, the worker injured his ankle while shifting a piano. He claimed that he could not drive, but his manager insisted that he had to. “[The plaintiff] again refused. Then [the manager] got into the truck cab. [The plaintiff] hopped over to the driver’s side and [the manager] said, ‘f*** you, you’re fired’,” the determination states.

The manager took the worker’s keys and drove off, leaving the plaintiff without transport.

A few days later the manager called to ask the plaintiff why he hadn’t attended work, and the plaintiff replied that he had been fired. His manager, who admits having lost his temper, swore at him and threatened to ‘smash’ him. The manager subsequently issued a letter of dismissal stating that worker hadn’t been clear about his intention to work.

ERA member Christine Hickey concluded, however, that the plaintiff had not abandoned his work, but had been unjustifiably dismissed. “[The manager’s] actions were certainly more than inconsiderate conduct. Even in the context of a fairly robust workplace his actions were dismissive and repudiatory. His actions were very far from the standard of a fair and reasonable employer,” she said.

The findings of fact were largely based on the worker’s evidence since the defendant did not have a representative at the investigation meeting, and provided no witness evidence.

Among other smaller payments, the removal firm was ordered to pay $7,212.10 in lost wages, $5,000 in compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.


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