Woman fired while on sick leave awarded compensation

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

A woman who received unwanted texts from her boss and was fired while on sick leave has been awarded $2500 compensation by the Employment Relations Authority.

The woman's employer, however did not believe she was really ill and fired her when she did not attend a redundancy meeting.

Phillippa Whaanga began working for Auckland-based Sharp Services Ltd (SSL) as an office manager in 2003.

Shortly after she started her job, Ms Whaanga requested to work from home, which she did, along with two other employees, the authority ruling said.

By the end of 2011 a friendship had developed between Ms Whaanga and the company's managing director Clifford Sharp, and they would send each other personal text messages - some of which were unwanted, Ms Whaanga told the authority.

However she did not speak to him about them.

Mr Sharp told the authority that early last year he had intended to make Ms Whaanga the overall administration manager, but later that year, he formed the view that the two other office employees had been doing much of the work Ms Whaanga was employed to do.

He did not raise his concerns with Ms Whaanga.

In August, Mr Sharp decided to move the office base from Ms Whaanga's home to a property owned by SSL in order to keep an eye on her work, the ruling said.

About that time he also requested she resign from the company.

On August 13, Ms Whaanga was on sick leave and had provided a doctor's certificate stating she would be unfit for work until August 27.

The next day, she received a letter from Mr Sharp that said he was considering making her role redundant and even though she was ill, he needed to meet with her that week.

Ms Whaanga told the authority she assumed a decision had been made about her redundancy, so did not attend a meeting, and her employment was terminated.

Mr Sharp told the authority he did not postpone the meeting, because he did not believe her illness was genuine.

Authority member Eleanor Robinson said it was clear Mr Sharp had become concerned with Ms Whaanga's work, but he was not fair in going through a redundancy process.

"Although Mr Sharp believed that Ms Whaanga had not performed her duties at SSL to an acceptable standard on the basis of information provided to him during 2012, there is no evidence that these concerns were put to Ms Whaanga, or that she had been provided with an opportunity to address them, or that a formal process in relation to them had been undertaken by SSL."

Ms Robinson found that SSL did not have a genuine reason for making Ms Whaanga's position redundant.

- APNZ

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