Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Road rage man seeks job back or $600,000

Guy Hallwright was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm with reckless disregard. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Guy Hallwright was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm with reckless disregard. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Former Forsyth Barr financial analyst Guy Hallwright is seeking his job back or about $600,000 in lost earnings after being dismissed following his conviction for running over a man with his car.

The Employment Relations Authority yesterday heard arguments on whether Mr Hallwright was justifiably dismissed by Forsyth Barr, which said it let him go to protect its reputation.

Mr Hallwright's lawyer, Kathryn Beck, said he had been making $275,000 a year, and received annual bonuses averaging $211,000.

She asked for Mr Hallwright to be reinstated to his Auckland job and reimbursed for lost wages and bonuses from the time of his dismissal, in September.

If the authority declined to grant reinstatement, she sought 18 months' lost wages, $211,000 for the bonus he should have received, and compensation for hurt and humiliation.

That would total about $600,000, excluding any compensation award, according to Herald calculations.

Mr Hallwright was dismissed soon after he was sentenced to 250 hours of community work and ordered to pay $20,000 in reparation to Sung Jin Kim, whose legs were broken when Mr Hallwright ran over him in his Saab car, then drove away, in a road-rage incident on Auckland's Mt Eden Rd in September 2010.

In June, a jury found Mr Hallwright guilty of causing grievous bodily harm with reckless disregard.

Yesterday, Ms Beck told the ERA Mr Hallwright had been extremely upset and embarrassed by the dismissal and the way he was treated. He had worked for Forsyth Barr for two years after the incident, and his ability to do his job was never questioned.

"[Mr Hallwright's] position is that this was not something that related to the workplace," Ms Beck said.

The company had not provided evidence that its reputation had been tarnished or that it had lost any business.

"We accept that Guy has been brought into disrepute, but the employer has not," she said.

Ms Beck criticised "unbalanced" media coverage of the affair, which she said could not justify Mr Hallwright's dismissal.

"One of the things that got lost with this whole situation, in particular with ... the saturation media coverage, was the facts," she said.

The ERA heard evidence from Forsyth Barr's Auckland manager, Chris Lambert, who said the firm had received many messages from members of the public criticising Mr Hallwright's continued employment.

One message, read out by executive director Shane Edmond, said: "I hope that Guy has better judgment about stocks than people."

Mr Lambert said there was an "awkwardness" at the Forsyth Barr offices because of Mr Hallwright's continued presence.

Mr Lambert and Mr Edmond said they accepted the offending was what Judge Raoul Neave had called "a momentary lapse of judgment".

Forsyth Barr's lawyer, Peter Churchman, said the offence being a momentary lapse of judgment did not alter the fact it was an offence that carried a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment.

"Had he not engaged in the activity, which the jury concluded constituted an offence of injuring with reckless disregard, there would have been no trial, there would have been no conviction, and there would have been no publicity."

Mr Churchman said the firm did not need to prove its reputation had been damaged, only that there was was potential for damage.

ERA member Rosemary Monaghan reserved her decision.

- APNZ

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