Woman wins $6000-plus payout after losing job

By Michael Dickison

A female office worker brought a bottle of liqueur to work then turned up the next morning seemingly hung over - and has now been awarded more than $6000 for unfair dismissal.

Sarah Anderson, who worked at the Whakatane Beacon, said that rather than vomiting as some colleagues had alleged, she had been dealing with her period during an extended visit to the office toilet on the Wednesday in question.

In awarding compensation and lost wages to Ms Anderson, the Employment Relations Authority ruled that managing director John Spring had failed to conduct a thorough enough investigation before firing her.

Ms Anderson has been prescribed sedatives to deal with stress after the affair, which ended in her packing up her desk and leaving the building in full view of her colleagues.

Seven months earlier, Ms Anderson had been involved in another incident involving allegations of alcohol abuse affecting her work.

Then in April 2010, she brought in a bottle of Vok to the office after buying it during a lunch break. It had been passed around but was not drunk.

The next day, Mr Spring received a complaint that Ms Anderson had arrived to work hung over.

Mr Spring and Ms Anderson both brought testimonials from staff to a meeting that day, presenting conflicting evidence of her state.

Ms Anderson was then fired on Monday.

Employment Relations Authority member James Wilson said in his ruling that Ms Anderson had not been made aware at the beginning of Mr Spring's investigation that dismissal was a possible outcome.

Mr Spring had also not discussed all his evidence with Ms Anderson, and he had dismissed Ms Anderson's testimonials without speaking to the testifying staff himself.

"Given that the outcome of his inquiries was Ms Anderson's dismissal, it was beholden on Mr Spring to ensure that his investigation considered every possible explanation," Mr Wilson said.

"In my finding he allowed his assumptions to override the need to consider Ms Anderson's explanations with an open mind."

Mr Wilson said he considered Ms Anderson's explanations to be plausible, and a fair and reasonable employer would have issued her with a formal, written final warning.

Ms Anderson was awarded $3000 in compensation for hurt and humiliation and $3550 for lost wages.

- NZ Herald

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