A digger operator who told his boss he thought co-workers were using drugs was later identified as an informant and feared retaliation from some colleagues with violent backgrounds.
The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has awarded David Crichton $23,000 in lost wages and compensation after his employer identified him as the source of accusations that colleagues had been using drugs on the worksite.
Crichton's former employer was not present or represented at the ERA investigation meeting, but member of the authority Michael Loftus found that Crichton's employment was untenable, despite not being formally dismissed.
Crichton had been working for the company, TD Drilling, owned and managed by Euan and Susan Tweeddale, from November 2014 until March 2015, when a number of incidents added up to Crichton leaving the company.
The key incident, according to the ERA, was on February 27, 2015, when Crichton was told by a colleague that co-workers were "taking drugs" in a van on the worksite. On March 2 Crichton told Euan Tweeddale what he had heard.
The next day the foreman on the worksite gathered all staff and told everyone Crichton had reported alleged drug use on the worksite.
Crichton said this incident caused him "extreme concern".
"A number of his colleagues had a history of violence, drug use and imprisonment and he now felt he was possibly at risk of a retaliatory reaction," member Loftus said.
"He considered the situation unpredictable and unsafe."
Crichton told the ERA he arrived at work on March 4 and was yelled at by Euan Tweeddale, who accused him of "causing a big f***ing rift here" because the foreman had tested negative for any drugs.
Crichton approached his boss for support during this difficult period, but none was offered and he concluded he could not continue his employment.
"It doesn't take much to realise the huge difficulty I would have had continuing to work with the others. I had raised a serious concern and it could have impacted on their incomes, so from their perspective I had crossed them," he told the ERA.
Loftus said in his decision that Crichton was constructively dismissed because the company failed to provide a safe workplace for him and had breached its duty of good faith.
The ERA awarded Crichton $11,115 in lost wages as a result of his dismissal and $12,000 as compensation for the unjustified dismissal.