Woman lied to her employer about being stranded in India

By Justin McCabe of APNZ

File photo / Greg Bowker
File photo / Greg Bowker

A woman who lied to her employer about being stranded in India while on holiday had her unfair dismissal appeal thrown out by the Employment Relations Authority last week.

Carmelle Parker, a former sales assistant for Ceres Wholesale Foods, offered a range of excuses - including illness, lack of communication facilities, no flight availability due to the Japanese tsunami and a sick daughter to extend her holiday to India by an extra month last year.

The authority found that she had lied about the delays to attend a court case which involved alleged "dowry and harassment claims".

Ms Parker, who had initially taken four weeks' paid and one week unpaid leave to visit family in India from January 24, came back to work two months later.

When manager Marianne Weber became concerned that her employee had not returned to work on March 1, Ms Parker's excuses became progressively bizarre.

Worried about her employee's welfare, Ms Weber desperately called Ms Parker's cellphone but her text messages and voice message went without reply until March 3.

Initially Ms Parker claimed she developed chest pains when she boarded a flight back to New Zealand on February 27 and was rushed to a hospital in Zirakpur, 260km from Delhi airport.

Ms Parker told the authority that without internet access, a working landline and an expired cellphone plan, she was "unable to communicate with her employer".

Using Ms Parker's niece as an intermediary to communicate, Ms Weber learnt Ms Parker would not be able to travel back to New Zealand before March 10, as she had been confined to seven days' bed rest.

Ms Parker managed to re-establish communication with her manager, leaving a voice mail and sending an email stating that she was waitlisted for a flight on March 9.

Ms Weber told the authority Ms Parker did not appear concerned about her absence; neither did she offer an apology for her lack of communication.

Assuming Ms Parker had boarded her flight, Ms Weber was surprised to find that again she had not turned up for work on March 10 and was unable to get hold of her for another four days.

Finally Ms Parker emailed Ms Weber, claiming she did not get the flight back to New Zealand due to the number of people travelling as a result of the Christchurch earthquake, the Japanese tsunami and returning students, but had booked the earliest available flight on March 20, and would be back at work on March 22.

While Ms Weber waited for her wayward sales assist to return, a private email was discovered on the Ceres computer system.

The email, addressed to an Indian court by Ms Parker, stated that her father had been beaten to death by her ex-husband's younger brother.

While Ms Parker told the authority that she had attended court hearings in relation to her dowry and harassment claims, she had attended court only from March 14 to March 18 as she "happened to be delayed" in India.

Member of the authority, Eleanor Robinson said she did not find Ms Parker's evidence credible.

She ruled that Ceres had behaved in good faith and had been concerned for their employee's welfare when she didn't return to work from her holiday.

Ms Robinson said Ms Parker had intentionally misled and deceived Ceres about her reasons for not returning and had always intended to attend the court proceedings.

- APNZ

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