Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Harrassment was 'horseplay' - sacked worker

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

An assistant baker fired after sexually harassing a fellow worker, tried to claim the woman involved enjoyed "horseplay" in the workplace and gave the impression he couldn't speak English properly during an employment investigation.

Mosese Fatukala was dismissed from Goodman Fielder in February 2012 after a female worker complained about his actions, and those of several others, at work.

The woman, whose has not been identified by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), alleged three workers - including Mr Fatukala - had been involved in the incident.

The ERA's determination on Mr Fatukala's case, released today, said the woman had made a complaint of sexual harassment about his actions.

Following an internal investigation, Goodman Fielder found him guilty of serious misconduct, with dismissal being the only appropriate course of action.

Mr Fatukala, who had been working for the company for five years, took his case to the ERA claiming he had been unjustifiably dismissed.

ERA member James Chrichton said that when Mr Fatukala first gave evidence he "formed the view that he had limited ability with English"

"However, when I spoke with Goodman Fielder's witnesses, they were adamant that Mr Fatukala's English is perfectly adequate, accepting that he speaks English as a second language."

After establishing this, Mr Chrichton was then presented with evidence from Mr Fatukala alleging the woman who complained about him was fond of "horseplay" in the workplace.

He also told Mr Chrichton the woman regularly engaged in that sort of behaviour in the workplace.

A photo on the woman's Facebook page which showed her "displaying a good deal of bare skin" was also brought to Mr Chrichton's attention.

According to Mr Fatukala, "a woman who is happy enough to display herself in that way on her Facebook site, may well be acting inconsistently with the nature of her complaint", Mr Chrichton noted in his determination.

Mr Fatukala also claimed he had been the least involved of three men in the behaviour complained of. Because the most seriously involved staff member had been dismissed, he believed he should have suffered a lesser penalty.

Problems about the woman's complaint were also raised by Mr Fatukala, who said it was being used by the woman as a "shield" for her poor attendance record on a particular shift.

Both Goodman Fielder and Mr Chrichton disagreed with this, finding the woman involved to be a reliable witness.

Mr Chrichton's determination on Mr Fatukala's case found Goodman Fielder had taken the correct disciplinary action, and there was no personal grievance in the matter.

- APNZ

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