Bullied office worker awarded $18k compensation

By Kurt Bayer

The company boss must pay the woman $16,900 in lost wages and $1415 in holiday pay. Photo / Geoff Sloan
The company boss must pay the woman $16,900 in lost wages and $1415 in holiday pay. Photo / Geoff Sloan

An office administrator who was bullied and verbally abused by a Christchurch company boss has been awarded $18,000 in compensation and more than $18,000 in lost wages and holiday pay.

A picture of a nightmare workplace has been revealed in an Employment Relations Authority (ERA) decision that found the woman, known only as Ms X, was unjustifiably sacked and unjustifiably disadvantaged in her job.

A suppression order bans publication of all parties involved, including details of the company.

The ERA heard earlier this year that Ms X had known the company boss, Mr Z, for around 15 years and they'd had an affair in the past.

Mr Z gave her a job in his office in May 2014.

Ms X claims Mr Z was aware she was undergoing counselling for childhood sexual abuse by her uncle and he had agreed she could take time off for counselling.

Within weeks, Mr Z started to get very angry in the office, she told the ERA.

She says he called staff "hopeless c****" and referred to a Maori employee as a n***** and that he could "get f*****".

He abused Ms X, accused her of stealing, and blamed her for clients not paying bills on time.

The boss also swore at his computer and telephone.

"She did once tell him to calm down and he said that he would do what he f****** well liked," the ERA decision said.

She also alleged he would regularly "play with himself" and once rubbed his crotch against her as she worked at her desk, but the ERA found inconsistencies in that part of her evidence and rejected the claims.

On September 10, 2014, Ms X says Mr Z came in and asked her what she was doing.
When she replied that she was invoicing, she says that Mr Z replied: "That's all you ever do is invoicing. I'm sick of this s***. F*** off."

As she left the premises, thinking she'd probably just been sacked, she claims Mr Z called after her, "I'll see you in court you stupid f****** c***" and referred to the abuse by her uncle.

Mr Z denied all her claims.

I believe that the impact on Ms X was significant, and I believe that she is entitled to a significant increase in compensation as a result.

In its ruling, the ERA found Mr Z bullied the woman and caused her upset and stress.

It found Ms X was "undoubtedly detrimentally affected" by her treatment and said Mr Z should pay her $18,500 in compensation.

Mr Z's parting remark about the woman's uncle was "deliberately cruel" and designed to cause her "maximum hurt and upset, which it did".

"Ms X had put her trust in Mr Z by telling him about a very upsetting period of her life, so she could attend counselling during working hours, and Mr Z betrayed that trust and acted with malice," ERA member David Appleton said.

"I believe that the impact on Ms X was significant, and I believe that she is entitled to a significant increase in compensation as a result."

Mr Z must also pay her $16,900 in lost wages and $1415 in holiday pay. Costs are reserved.

- NZ Herald

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