Woman unfairly sacked after refusing to drive

By Abby Gillies

The ERA has found Debra Wilson was unfairly dismissed after she refused to drive an unwarranted work car with bald tyres. Photo / File
The ERA has found Debra Wilson was unfairly dismissed after she refused to drive an unwarranted work car with bald tyres. Photo / File

An educator was unjustifiably dismissed after claiming she was bullied by her boss for refusing to drive an unwarranted work car, the Employment Relations Authority has found.

Debra Wilson was sacked by the Life Education Trust last February, about four months after her work car failed its warrant of fitness because of worn-down tyres and other issues.

She spoke to trust member Tim Hosking about the failed warrant but was told to continue driving the car for another 28 days, the authority's finding said.

Two weeks later, while driving to a work appointment, the car lost traction on the motorway. She pulled over and called Hosking to say it was unsafe to use and she was going home.

She also emailed the trust's education liaison committee chairman Bruce Davies to explain her why she didn't attend the event.

In the following weeks a series of incidents formed the basis of her claims of abusive and bullying behaviour by Davies, the finding said.

On October 21 he called her, "yelling and angry about her non-attendance at the trust function".

He refused to accept the car could not be driven and suggested she had ordered a taxi or borrowed a car. He apologised and four days later the car was returned to her warranted.

The day after a meeting on November 29, in which Wilson repeated her concerns over the car, she resigned citing irreconcilable differences.

Davies later contacted Wilson alleging serious misconduct over a conversation she had with staff in Warkworth. A series of disagreements followed over the date of her final day of work.

She was dismissed in February on the grounds of unauthorised absence and abandonment of employment when she failed to return to work after December 13.

ERA member Tania Tetitaha found the dismissal unjustified.

The trust would have been ordered to pay Wilson more than $2000 in lost wages and $3000 for hurt, but this was wiped because Wilson did not work her notice period.

The non-profit trust teaches health to primary and intermediate children based on the school curriculum. As part of Wilson's role she delivered educational programmes at schools in Rodney, north of Auckland.


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