Reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Worker awarded $9000 after dismissal via text message

Employment Relations Authority found the dismissal of Garry Maiden unjustified. Photo / File
Employment Relations Authority found the dismissal of Garry Maiden unjustified. Photo / File

A worker dismissed by text message after 17 years has been awarded six months' wages, $9000 compensation, and money to cover legal fees.

A decision released by the Employment Relations Authority found the dismissal of Garry Maiden by the managing director of Tuakau company Timbertank, Justin Jordan, was unjustified.

Mr Maiden, a project manager who had been with the company 17 years, received a text message from Mr Jordan on February 24 last year saying: "Timbertank's administration no longer wants to use you, rough and ready, tank cleans not being done and return trips for leaking liners meaning a different approach was required. Sorry and good luck."

The message came just 11 days after Mr Maiden had challenged the company about a pay rise of $6 an hour, that had been agreed to but not honoured by the company.

Mr Maiden had negotiated a pay increase from $30 to $36 an hour in early 2015.

Authority member Rachel Larmer said Timbertank appeared to have been motivated by Mr Maiden's attempts to assert his employment rights, as he had been pressing for a written employment agreement that reflected their agreed terms.

Timbertank admitted dismissing Mr Maiden without notice, but said it believed it could do so because he was a "casual employee", with no fixed hours. But the authority said this was a misconception, and Mr Maiden was a permanent ongoing employee.

The Authority found Mr Maiden was owed wage arrears, unpaid public holiday entitlements for three Anzac Days worked between 2012 and 2014 and unpaid holiday pay.

The amount was to be negotiated between Mr Maiden and Timbertank, as the company did not put the necessary information for the Authority to calculate the amount of wage arrears owed.

The company was also ordered to pay Mr Maiden $9000 to compensate him for the humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings he suffered as a result of his unjustified dismissal.

He told the Authority this was the first time he has been dismissed from a job, and that the small Tuakau community offered limited work opportunities.

Ms Larmer said Mr Maiden described his embarrassment at having to explain that he had been dismissed.

"He had never been dismissed before so found it quite a blow to his self esteem and confidence."

Though he took on a new job as a chef two days a week immediately after his dismissal, Mr Maiden said he found it challenging to live on the dramatically reduced income, and experienced pressure meeting financial commitments.

Timbertank was also ordered to pay Mr Maiden $1750 towards his actual legal costs and $71.56 to reimburse his filing fee.

Ms Larmer said she believed the root of the issue was not Mr Maiden's performance, but rather the way in which the company managed its employment obligations.

"Mr Maiden was effectively a spokesman about employment issues and concerns for other employees which appears to have attracted Timbertank's'

dissatisfaction with him.

"I find that Timbertank's dismissal of Mr Maiden was substantively and procedurally unjustified," Ms Larmer said.

- NZ Herald

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