A NZ Post worker has been awarded $500 compensation after receiving a final written warning for spending five hours socialising in the company carpark after work.
In a determination released yesterday by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), member Rachel Larmer found the disciplinary action handed out by NZ Post to Auckland mail officer Peter Milne was unjustified.
The warning for serious misconduct was issued after CCTV footage showed Mr Milne and six other night-shift workers fraternising in the East Tamaki car park until 10.40am on August 18 last year.
Mr Milne worked weeknights from 10pm to 5.35am.
The footage was reviewed by company management after a box of Cody's alcohol packaging containing some empty bottles was found in the carpark. Empty cans were also discovered around the corner, the determination said.
After a series of interviews, NZ Post management identified the seven employees who had stayed behind in the carpark, one of which was Mr Milne.
While there was no evidence to show Mr Milne was drinking, NZ Post found his actions of "congregating in the carpark after your shift had ended" involved disorderly conduct that could have brought the company to disrepute.
They issued his final written warning in September, about three weeks after the incident. He had been working at the company for about four years at the time and had a clean disciplinary record.
In the determination, Ms Larmer said there was no evidence Mr Milne or those he was socialising with had conducted themselves in a disorderly manner.
"They had not engaged in any loud, obnoxious or disruptive behaviour.
"Mr Milne's unchallenged evidence was that the staff in the carpark were just talking and laughing," she said.
Mr Milne's actions were also unlikely to have deterred anyone from using NZ Post's Services or compromised the safety and wellbeing of others.
"I doubt whether any of the passers-by gave a second thought to seeing people standing and talking in the car park," the determination said.
In addition to the $500 distress compensation, Ms Larmer ordered NZ Post to pay Mr Milne about $70 to reimburse his filing fee with the ERA. Concerns raised about Mr Milne's honesty during the NZ Post investigation were also deemed to be unfounded in Ms Larmer's determination.
Mr Milne also claimed he should be reimbursed two days' annual leave for attending mediation following the August incident, however this was not awarded in the determination as it was not part of his contract.