Zion worker's go-ahead to fight unfair dismissal

By Mike Dinsdale

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Lion Man Craig Busch at Kingdom of Zion wildlife park.
Lion Man Craig Busch at Kingdom of Zion wildlife park.

A former employee at Whangarei's Kingdom of Zion wildlife park has been given permission to take a claim for unjustified dismissal to the Employment Relations Authority despite his claim being made outside the statutory 90 day period after the employment ended.

Neville Bradford left his job as a groundsman at the park, in Kamo, in July last year - six months after taking the role - and in November filed a personal grievance with the ERA.

Mr Bradford told ERA member Eleanor Robinson he left on July 21 after a meeting with Ian Stevenson, one of the directors of Zion Wildlife Kingdom and Lion Man Craig Busch, representing Earth Crest, which owns the park.

Mr Bradford said at that meeting Mr Busch had referred to the fact that there had been serious allegations made about him, but when questioned about the nature of the allegations, Mr Busch had provided no details.

Mr Bradford said it was clear during the meeting that Earth Crest - his employer - no longer wanted him to work at the park, and he decided that he no longer wanted to work there.

So he entered into negotiations with Earth Crest which resulted in an agreement of the terms on which his employment would end, including series of payments that would continue until the following February.

But when the agreed payments stopped in September he contacted Earth Crest to ask why and after receiving no response contacted the ERA in early October seeking guidance. He filed a statement of problem with the authority on November 30. Earth Crest said the Mr Bradford should not be given leave to bring his claim outside of the 90 day statutory limit but Ms Robinson allowed the application, partly because of his ignorance of the timeframe and that he did not obtain legal guidance from the ERA helpline until October. It was also relevant to consider the relevant merits of Mr Bradford's case.

"The merits have yet to be tested, however the facts as presented are that Mr Bradford was advised by Earth Crest that there were serious allegations against him, but he had not been given any details of what these allegations comprised despite his request for this information ... it is for Earth Crest to justify the actions taken throughout the disciplinary process and to establish that the disciplinary process was thorough and conducted in a fair and reasonable manner without bias," Ms Robinson said.

She found that the issues in the case were sufficient to merit a full investigation. . A hearing has yet to be set hear the substantial claim to be heard.

- Northern Advocate

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