Winz dismissal going to court

The former Kerikeri Work and Income boss who lost a claim for unjustified dismissal says she was king hit with a bottle and not involved in "a bar room brawl", her lawyer says.

Jane Drader lost her job of 16 years in March 2011 after looking up a client's unlisted phone number in Winz files and making an allegedly threatening phone call. The client was so frightened she moved out of her home.

The phone call followed what the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) called a fight with the client at Rocksalt Bar in Kerikeri.

Mrs Drader took her dismissal to the ERA but lost, as reported in the Advocate last week.

Her lawyer, Bryce Quarrie of Kaitaia, said Mrs Drader had been struck in the face with a bottle without provocation.She was dazed and confused. Despite that, the ERA finding described the incident as a fight.

"It wasn't a fight. It was a king hit," Mr Quarrie said. "The ministry might have been justified in raising subsequent issues, but the fact is that my client was the victim of a vicious attack, not party to a bar room brawl."

The ERA's decision would be challenged in the Employment Court. Mr Quarrie said his client felt "seriously abandoned" by management and hung out to dry.

On February 3 the woman was upset when she went to the Winz offices and asked Mrs Drader about a child care subsidy. She returned the next day, Friday.

That evening Mrs Drader, her husband and another couple went to Rocksalt.

Mrs Drader asked a man for a light. The client approached, saying the man was her husband, and hit Mrs Drader above the right eye with a bottle, Mr Quarrie said.

Mr Drader immediately took his wife from the bar.

The following Monday Mrs Drader took the client's unlisted phone number from office files, called her and told her that she had "let the bloody dogs out now". She said her intention had been not to intimidate but to warn the client family members might try to retaliate.

Mrs Drader laid a complaint with police on the evening of the assault but did not tell her bosses until six days later. She was sacked on March 29 after a series of meetings with management.

She told the ERA the assault had been the direct result of her following proper protocols and processes. The way management treated her had upset her.

"I was the victim of an attack ... I felt like I was being investigated like a criminal investigation and that I was somehow to blame for it all," she said.

She accepted she should not have phoned the client but no consideration had been given to her state of mind. as a result of the attack and possible concussion. The ERA noted she had not sought medical treatment.

The ERA found Mrs Drader's dismissal was justified "in all the circumstances".

- Northern Advocate

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