Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

Rest home worker unfairly fired for telling resident to 'starve'

A rest home housekeeper who told an elderly resident to "starve then" when the resident returned her fish and chips dinner, has been awarded nearly $13,000 for being unjustifiably dismissed.

Gloria Booth was employed by Roslyn House, run by Abbeyfield Palmerston North Inc, and was expected to cook meals, clean, and get residents out of bed in the morning.

The home was described as a "flatting for seniors" facility.

In May this year, the company fired her after an investigation.

The company relied on four reasons for firing Ms Booth, the Employment Relations Authority said.

They were that she had told a resident to "starve then" when the resident returned her meal; that several housekeepers had left the company because of the way Ms Booth treated them; she visited the committee's chairwoman at her work to deliver a tirade; and she was unhelpful and unco-operative with a pest controller who was spraying the premises.

Authority member Paul Stapp said her dismissal was unjustified because the company gave no reasons as to why they upheld the four complaints.

"This was fundamentally unfair."

He said there was context in which Ms Booth made her comments to the resident to "starve then".

Also, the housekeepers who apparently said they left because of Ms Booth's treatment of them had never formally complained before leaving.

"Indeed one of the housekeepers (had said) the incidents are trivial, hearsay and gossip."

Mr Stapp said Ms Booth visited the committee chairwoman's work because she wanted to put forward her side of a complaint.

He said Ms Booth's behaviour towards a pest controller should not have been regarded as "serious misconduct".

"A fair and reasonable employer could have treated this as a performance management issue, but would not have escalated it to serious misconduct."

It was not practicable for Ms Booth to be reinstated in her job because of the circumstances surrounding her departure, Mr Stapp said.

Ms Booth claimed $48,360 in lost earnings for 18 months and $15,000 compensation.

However, Mr Stapp limited her claim to three months' lost wages, at $7800, and $5000 compensation for hurt and humiliation.

Neither Ms Booth nor Abbeyfield Palmerston North were available for comment.

- APNZ

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