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Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

Warehouse overreacted to guard's 'p****' insult - ERA

The Warehouse overreacted when it fired a security guard who insulted a customer, the ERA has ruled.
The Warehouse overreacted when it fired a security guard who insulted a customer, the ERA has ruled.

A Warehouse security guard who called a customer an "arrogant p****" and allegedly made a racist comment because they were white was wrongly dismissed.

Loss prevention officer Margaret Maria Harris was sacked from The Warehouse's Kaikohe store after a complaint from the husband of a customer last February.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) said Ms Harris approached the customer, who was standing near a checkout with a dog, and twice asked her to leave because dogs were not allowed in the store.

The guard then followed the customer out to the foyer, where CCTV footage appeared to show a heated exchange, with arms raised. Two Maori wardens intervened and Ms Harris threatened to trespass the customer and call police.

The customer's husband wrote a letter of complaint, alleging Ms Harris had loudly said: "How arrogant!"

The letter also said she made comments about white people to another employee, saying, "If they were Maori they wouldn't be like that."

Ms Harris conceded she had told another employee the customer was arrogant. She offered to write a letter of apology.

However, she denied she had called the customer an "arrogant p****" and said she was not racist.

The Warehouse launched an investigation and found Ms Harris guilty of serious misconduct.

It concluded she did not make any racist comments, but found she did say "arrogant p****".

The ERA found the incident was one of serious misconduct and The Warehouse had carried out a proper investigation.

However, the decision to dismiss her was not fair or reasonable, given Ms Harris' good past track record and the fact she believed she was carrying out her proper duties.

The ERA did not award any remedy because of her contribution to the situation.

- APNZ

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