Club entertainer awarded $8500 by Employment Authority

By Ben Chapman-Smith

The former manager of the Masterton Services and Citizens Club has been awarded $8000 after the Employment Relations Authority found he was unjustifiably dismissed. Photo / File
The former manager of the Masterton Services and Citizens Club has been awarded $8000 after the Employment Relations Authority found he was unjustifiably dismissed. Photo / File

A club circuit entertainer looking to break into management has been awarded more than $8000 after he was unjustifiably dismissed by a Masterton services and citizens club.

Wayne Russell Heath started working at the Wairarapa Services and Citizens Club in July last year.

He was employed as acting manager at the club on a five-month contract but lost the job in September after a series of problems.

Heath went to the Employment Relations Authority in August this year, claiming he had been harassed, ostracised and bullied by people at the club, including the secretary Janice Dixon.

The ERA ruled in Heath's favour that he was unjustifiably dismissed and was entitled to compensation, amounting to about $8500.

Heath's previous experience was primarily as an entertainer on the club circuit and he saw the Masterton job as a chance to break into management, the ERA heard.

Early into the job, Heath took issue with the club president Ron Graham making announcements at club events, such as draw nights.

Heath and Graham disagreed over who had the right to make the announcements, in their respective positions.

Heath also took issue with the way he was treated by club secretary Dixon when he asked questions about how to do his job.

The breakdown in his relationship with Dixon and Graham led to a meeting being held on September 14 last year.

"It is common ground that it became tense and that people became agitated when Mr Heath made accusations and allegations about discrepancies in the books," the ERA said.

A week later Dixon challenged Heath about his CV and his experience in managing clubs.

Heath told the ERA that Dixon's "outburst" was "inconceivable and spiteful" and that she shared her views with other club managers in the area, although the ERA said there was no proof this happened.

Heath was dismissed by Dixon during a conversation at the club on September 22, and later by Graham in a telephone call.

The club and Heath claim different versions of events but the ERA decided the words "sacked, fired and/or dismissed" were not used by anyone from the club.

"It is more likely than not that Mr Heath's version meant that he reasonably concluded that he had been asked to leave and in essence had been dismissed."

The ERA found the club accepted Heath's employment ending without following it up, did not raise any concerns with Heath on a formal basis, and gave him no opportunity to respond to their issues with him.

"I hold that Mr Heath has a personal grievance for his dismissal. His employment ended unjustifiably at the initiative of the employer.

"I accept that his feelings have been affected by what happened and that he was hurt personally because of the employer's conduct."

The ERA ruled Heath had been unjustifiably by the club and was entitled to $5,073 in lost wages and $3,400 compensation for hurt and humiliation.

The Wairarapa Services and Citizens Club was also ordered to pay the $71.56 filing fee.

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