Cloud manager fired over off-duty drunkenness

By Ben Chapman-Smith

A Cloud manager has been awarded costs after being fired for turning up at the venue drunk while off-duty during the Rugby World Cup. Photo / NZH
A Cloud manager has been awarded costs after being fired for turning up at the venue drunk while off-duty during the Rugby World Cup. Photo / NZH

An ex-manager at the Cloud during the Rugby World Cup was fired for turning up at the venue drunk while off-duty.

Claiming unfair dismissal over the incident, Carla McKenzie took her case to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), which has found her dismissal was a fair decision, but that her employer had failed to follow 'fair procedure' in dismissing her.

McKenzie was employed as an Operations Manager for Dawsons during the Rugby World Cup last year.

McKenzie claimed she had been unjustifiably dismissed from the job after an incident on October 5.

On that night, Dawsons claimed McKenzie turned up at the Cloud on her day off "in a state of intoxication and acting inappropriately".

McKenzie later admitted to this.

The ERA was told McKenzie yelled at and abused a security guard when he denied her access to the media lounge. McKenzie was later refused a drink on the basis she was intoxicated.

Dawsons carried out an investigation into the allegations and McKenzie was dismissed on the basis of serious misconduct.

Sarah Biel, who was Operations Manager on October 5, told the ERA a similar situation occurred in September 2011 when McKenzie was at the Cloud off-duty and intoxicated.

Biel claimed McKenzie had been confrontational, abusive and aggressive. At the time, McKenzie was asked by her employer to leave the Cloud and told she should do her socialising away from the venue.

Following the second incident in October, Dawsons carried out further investigations and interviewed four more employees.

Dawsons said the other employees made allegations about McKenzie's behaviour at other times, including drinking on duty, opening bar accounts without authorisation and being abusive towards them.

As a result, Dawsons phoned McKenzie and told her she was suspended on full pay.

McKenzie said she received no written confirmation, despite requesting it in three emails.

She also said she was given no indication of how long the suspension was to last.

Following a meeting on October 10 between lawyers, McKenzie was fired on the basis of four allegations, collectively referred to by Dawsons as serious misconduct.

They included drinking on duty, being intoxicated on site while off duty, inappropriate and unprofessional conduct whilst using a two-way radio and unauthorised opening of a bar account for personal use.

The ERA's Eleanor Robinson found that while only one of the allegations constituted serious misconduct in accordance with Dawsons policies and procedures, dismissal was a fair decision.

However, it stated Dawsons failed to follow 'fair procedure' in dismissing McKenzie.

Robinson said McKenzie should have received notice of her suspension in writing, and been given the opportunity to comment on the decision before the October 10 meeting.

"However, this did not occur despite Ms McKenzie requesting this information in three emails," Robinson said.

"I consider that the fair and reasonable employer would have provided Ms McKenzie with full information concerning the allegations against her, both at the time of her suspension and prior to the disciplinary meeting being held."

"I determine that Dawsons did not follow a fair procedure in dismissing Ms McKenzie and that Ms McKenzie was unjustifiably dismissed."

The ERA initially decided Dawsons should pay McKenzie $3000.

"I find that Ms McKenzie has experienced humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings," judge said.

But this figure was then reduced by 90 per cent to $300, based on the fact McKenzie had admitted to being intoxicated while off-duty at the Cloud.

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