Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

Liquor worker accused of being drunk gets $62,000

Independent Liquor was unjustified in dismissing the Christchurch-based manager, named only as Mr X for legal reasons. Photo / Thinkstock
Independent Liquor was unjustified in dismissing the Christchurch-based manager, named only as Mr X for legal reasons. Photo / Thinkstock

Alcohol company Independent Liquor sacked an employee over allegations of drunken misbehaviour at a Fight For Life charity boxing match it sponsored which was attended by Prime Minister John Key.

The company later raised concerns that the incident in December 2011 had caused damage to its reputation in front of Mr Key during "highly delicate negotiations" over the Government's proposed alcohol reforms.

Mr Key's office says neither he nor his staff can recall any incident at the event in Auckland, while Fight For Life is standing by its sponsor.

Details of the alleged misbehaviour were revealed in an Employment Relations Authority determination, released yesterday, which found Independent Liquor was unjustified in dismissing the Christchurch-based manager, named only as Mr X for legal reasons.

The employee was awarded more than $62,000 in lost income and compensation.

The ERA was told he and other staff had been entertaining customers and clients at events before, during and after the Woodstock Reserve Fight For Life boxing match at Auckland's Trusts Stadium on December 3, 2011.

The company said Mr X was grossly intoxicated on the day, which led to several alleged incidents of serious misconduct, including abusive behaviour and sexual harassment.

It alleged he failed to take responsibility for the out-of-control behaviour of a client who arrived drunk at a pre-function lunch and continued to drink heavily. At one point, the client returned to the table with his shirt untucked and blood on him, suggesting he had injured himself in some way. He was later ejected from the boxing event.

Mr X was also alleged to have acted abusively towards customers and staff, including a group of Indian customers at the lunch.

He then told a colleague to "f*** off" after she asked him to sit down during a post-function bus ride.

When they arrived at the post-function event, Mr X was alleged to have sexually harassed the wife of a customer from a South Island tavern.

The company suspended him the following day and dismissed him at a meeting two days later.

The ERA found that Independent Liquor failed to follow proper procedures and ordered it to pay $58,118.70 in lost income and bonuses and $4000 in compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.

- APNZ

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