'Genuinely fearful' worker awarded $16K

By Brendan Manning

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

A barber who was "genuinely fearful" of remaining in his employer's presence has been awarded $16,000 in compensation and unpaid wages.

The Employment Relations Authority found Craig Hamilton was unjustifiably dismissed from his Work & Income-referred barber role when matters "finally came to a head" on April 20 last year.

He had been employed by Afroz Kutti in March 2012 and told the authority he was pleased to have found work after a period of unemployment.

Authority member James Crichton in his determination described the employment relationship between the pair as "rather unsatisfactory and disjointed".

Mr Hamilton was paid cash each night before he went home, a method described by Mr Crichton as "odd".

Mr Kutti complained to the authority that Mr Hamilton would be "smoking all the time" and smelling of cigarette smoke which prompted complaints from his clients.

He also complained that Mr Hamilton took too many breaks, arrived late to work and brought marijuana into the barber shop's lunch room.

Mr Hamilton denied the allegations and said he was subjected to racist and sexual harassment.

He claimed Mr Kutti would say things like "I hate white people" and would make fun of the fact that he was not a person of faith.

Matters finally came to a head when Mr Hamilton asked Mr Kutti for his pay on April 20, 2013.

Mr Kutti allegedly threw $100 at Mr Hamilton and told him that he was sacked. Mr Kutti agrees that he said something to the effect that Mr Hamilton was to take his money and "f*** off".

"Not surprisingly, Mr Hamilton took the money and fled," Mr Crichton wrote in his determination.

"His evidence is that Mr Kutti was unpredictable, had a bad temper, and he was concerned that he had a machete in the shop for protection."

Similar altercations had occurred in the past however the pair's relationship would be restored, "if only because Mr Hamilton was fearful that if he lost his job, he would not be able to obtain the unemployment benefit again".

However, the final exchange led to Mr Hamilton being "genuinely fearful of remaining in Mr Kutti's presence," Mr Crichton said.

Mr Hamilton was found by the authority to have been unjustifiably dismissed by Mr Kutti. He was awarded $7000 in compensation, and a further amount of $9220 in unpaid wages.

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