Company ordered to pay back drugged driver who crashed truck

By Patrice Dougan

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

A company which deducted a truck driver's wages after she fell asleep at the wheel and crashed while high on cannabis has been ordered to pay her back.

Chaunte Hepi resigned from her position as site traffic management supervisor following the incident, in which she caused an accident and damaged the truck. She later tested positive for cannabis.

Traffic Management NZ Ltd deducted the cost of fixing the truck from her last pay cheque in October last year.

But the company has now been ordered to pay her the money back, as well as a fine of $1000, after the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) found it had broken employment law by not securing written agreement from Ms Hepi to do so.

The company argued she had verbally agreed to pay the debt out of her wages during a disciplinary meeting when she resigned. However, Ms Hepi said they had only discussed the matter at the meeting, and she had requested more information, including the exact amount of the repairs, a copy of the invoice and details of a payment method.

However, the ERA found the company broke the Wage Protection Act 1983, which bans any deductions from employee wages that have not been requested or authorised in writing. It said a clause in her unsigned employment agreement did not count as written consent.

The ERA also found Traffic Management NZ had not filed an insurance claim for the damage to the truck, and could not provide details of the work done to repair the vehicle, saying there "is no corroborating evidence of the reasonableness of the charges."

The company said it knew the insurance claim would be declined because Ms Hepi was under the influence of drugs. But the ERA ruled it could not claim damages from Ms Hepi until it had filed an insurance claim and received an outcome.

It ordered the company to pay back $3,915.55 deducted from Ms Hepi's wages, plus interest at seven per cent from October 9, 2012 until the date of payment.

The company was also ordered to pay a penalty of $1000 to "mitigate the losses and hardship suffered" by Ms Hepi.

- APNZ

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