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Man fired over planking photos loses compo bid

Planking might be fun and games for most, but it cost a Timaru man his job. File photo / supplied
Planking might be fun and games for most, but it cost a Timaru man his job. File photo / supplied

A Timaru man sacked from his job at Fonterra for taking photos of his colleagues "planking" at work has lost a bid for compensation.

Blair Harris was fired from his job as supervisor in Fonterra's cream product department at the Clandeboye Plant in Timaru on June 1.

Fonterra said his behaviour was a breach of its health and safety policy, code of conduct and Fonterra values.

However, Mr Harris said his dismissal was unjustified and took it to the Employment Relations Authority.

He sought $10,000 for lost wages and compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and distress.

Planking was a shortlived craze in which people were photographed lying stiffly in unusual places.

Two employees were photographed by Mr Harris planking on objects between 1.5m-2.5m off the ground.

They received final written warnings and demoted to the lowest level roles in the plant's hierarchy.

Mr Harris, who had worked for Fonterra for 18 years, said he found the differences in discipline "very unfair".

But ERA member Helen Doyle said there was adequate explanation in the difference of treatment because of Mr Harris's senior role.

During disciplinary procedures Mr Harris made it clear that if he kept his job he would stand up and talk to people about health and safety.

He said it was one mistake in his 18 years of employment and sincerely wanted to go back to Fonterra.

However, Ms Doyle ruled in Fonterra's favour and said Mr Harris' dismissal was justified because the event and subsequent investigations disclosed serious misconduct.

Since losing his job, Mr Harris applied for 25 jobs and was eventually employed by another company in a lower paid role.

A Fonterra spokesman said today that the company had no comment to make on the ruling.

Mr Harris could not be immediately reached for contact.

Planking earned a poor reputation because of the dangerous places people did it. Australian man Acton Beale, 20, died when he fell from a seventh floor balcony while planking in Brisbane.

- APNZ

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