Teen sacked for taking pokie cash wins $13k

By Kieran Campbell

The ERA ruled the bar worker had been trained to take any pokie machine winnings that were unclaimed. Photo / Thinkstock
The ERA ruled the bar worker had been trained to take any pokie machine winnings that were unclaimed. Photo / Thinkstock

An 18-year-old bar worker sacked for taking $12 of unclaimed pokie machine winnings as a tip has been awarded more than $13,000 compensation for being unfairly dismissed.

The teenager, Jamie Gwen Hammond, was awarded the compensation after an Employment Relations Authority found a former manager at the Grosvenor Hotel in Timaru had trained Ms Hammond to take any pokie machine winnings that were unclaimed.

The authority, in its determination published today, said evidence about the former manager potentially implicated her in an unlawful act relating to the handling of winnings from gaming machines.

The former manager has been named Ms X because she did not have a chance to address the evidence about her conduct, including that at least once she split $320 in unclaimed winnings between the bar staff on duty at the time.

As a result of Ms X's evidence, authority member David Appleton found Ms Hammond believed she was doing the right thing when she took the unclaimed $12 as a tip.

It had been Ms Hammond's first permanent fulltime job and she had undergone training in problem gambling and harm minimisation awareness.

On December 5, 2011, a patron asked Ms Hammond to change $24 in coins won from a pokie machine into notes but left before claiming the winnings.

Legally the money should have been deposited into the Pub Charity Trust's bank account as unclaimed gaming money.

However, Ms Hammond had been taught by Ms X to leave unclaimed winnings on the bar for several hours and if it was unclaimed it could be split between staff as an end-of-shift bonus.

"She followed what she believed to be the correct practice in such a case," Mr Appleton said.

Ms Hammond split the $24 with another staff member, who decided not to take her $12 share because she "felt uncomfortable".

Ms Hammond was subsequently dismissed.

Mr Appleton said Ms Hammond's boss had not investigated the matter thoroughly enough because if she had she would have discovered the incorrect process that had been taught by Ms X.

"That ... should have convinced a fair and reasonable employer not to have dismissed Ms Hammond, but rather to have instituted training for the staff if the approach Ms Hammond had learned from Ms X was viewed as wrong," Mr Appleton said.

As well as seeking lost wages, Ms Hammond said she suffered humiliation, loss of dignity and injury as a result of being fired, including being dismissed from her new job at Coffee Culture because of allegations she had been dishonest in her former job.

She said she also fell out with her father, who did not speak to her for five months after the allegations.

Mr Appleton ordered Ms Hammond be paid $6217 in lost wages and $7500 compensation for humiliation she suffered.

- APNZ

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