Rebecca Quilliam

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

Cafe worker awarded $12,000 for sudden firing

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

A cafe worker has been awarded nearly $12,000 after his boss fired him without warning, and told him "there's the f***ing door".

Michael Wildbore was working at EAT Cafe in Addington in Christchurch when his employer Rachel Jerard unjustifiably dismissed him in March, the Employment Relations Authority has ruled.

Ms Jerard did not participate in the authority's investigation.

Mr Wildbore, who wanted to become a chef, started work for the cafe in March last year on a casual basis doing kitchen duties and some front of house activities.

By that Christmas, Ms Jerard said she wanted the 21-year-old to take on more food preparation duties and she would hire another person to take up the work he would not be able to do.

In early February, she increased Mr Wildbore's duties in the kitchen, but had not hired anyone to replace him for the other work.

Mr Wildbore asked a number of times if he would be getting a pay rise to recognise the increased responsibility and raised concerns that his workload was getting too much.

On March 19, Ms Jerard told Mr Wildbore he was taking too long in preparing a salad. He replied that he kept getting called out of the kitchen to help front of house staff.

He again asked about a pay rise and Ms Jerard replied if he didn't like it "there's the f***ing door".

At the end of Mr Wildbore's shift at 3pm, he said goodbye to Ms Jerard and a co-worker she was with and she replied, "Where do you think you are going? I'm letting you go."

She said he was not to come back and told him to collect his holiday pay the following Wednesday.

The way Mr Wildbore spoke to her was serious misconduct, she said.

Authority member Christine Hickey said Mr Wildbore had no prior warning that Ms Jerard intended to raise a concern that could lead to his dismissal and he was given no opportunity to seek representation.

She said in giving evidence, Mr Wildbore said the dismissal had caused him "stress and anxiety" and made him feel useless.

"He said that he was 'highly upset' on the day of his dismissal. He was embarrassed and humiliated at being dismissed so cavalierly by Ms Jerard..."

Mr Wildbore was also publicly shamed earlier in the day when Ms Jerard implicitly sought his resignation by saying "there's the f***ing door then", in front of his colleagues, Ms Hickey said.

The dismissal continued to worry him and despite now being employed elsewhere, Mr Wildbore suffered from low moods because of it.

Ms Hickey said it was unclear what Ms Jerard paid to the IRD for PAYE and student loan payments, and throughout the time Mr Wildbore was hired, she paid no employer contributions to his Kiwisaver account.

She awarded Mr Wildbore $11,901 in unpaid wages, lost remuneration, holiday pay, Kiwisaver contributions, student loan repayments and compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to his feelings.

Neither Mr Wildbore or Ms Jerard were available for comment.

- APNZ

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