Sacked worker wins payout

By Mike Dinsdale

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A Whangarei company has been ordered to pay a former worker eight weeks' wages and $5500 in distress compensation after the man was found to have been unjustifiably dismissed and disadvantaged.

Dion Hira claimed he was unjustifiably dismissed from his job at Barfoote Holdings in April 2010 and subsequently unjustifiably disadvantaged. He took his case to the Employment Relations Authority.

Barfoote Holdings said in defence that Mr Hira had left the company on his own accord after walking off the job following a dispute with his foreman on April 24, 2010.

In a decision, ERA member Rachel Larmer found in Mr Hira's favour, saying he was unjustifiably dismissed and disadvantaged, awarding him eight weeks' wages.

"I consider an award of $5500 distress compensation is [also] appropriate to compensate Mr Hira for the humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings he suffered as a result of his disadvantage and dismissal grievances," Ms Larmer said.

The ERA heard that Mr Hira had a dispute with his foreman Steve Bilski, with the supervisor swearing at him and abusing him.

Mr Hira said he had wanted to hit Mr Bilski, but instead decided to go home and cool off because he was too upset to continue working.

At the end of the shift, Mr Bilski rang then general manager Robert Malone and owner Trevor Barfoote, saying Mr Hira had "stormed off" the job.

Mr Hira returned to work on the Monday and after speaking to Mr Malone returned home. A letter written to Mr Hira the following day accused him of swearing at his supervisor and walking off the job, which was considered serious misconduct "and to this end, your employment has been terminated effective immediately".

Barfoote then withheld Mr Hira's final pay until June 18, causing him considerable financial problems as he was the sole breadwinner in the family.

The company said it did not unjustifiably dismiss or disadvantage and considered his walking off from the job as a resignation without notice.

It said the dismissal letter of April 27 was a "mistake" and it could not have dismissed him as he had already left.

But Ms Larmer found that Barfoote was not justified in suspending Mr Hira on April 26 and did not follow fair and due process before doing so.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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