Sacked-by-text barista wins $500 compo

A cafe worker accused of smoking cannabis on the job and driving customers away with his rude and "hostile" service has been awarded $500 compensation for wrongful dismissal.

Gareth Homan had worked as a part-time cafe assistant and barista at Whakatane's The Fig for six months before his employer "just had enough" and sacked him via text message.

The Employment Relations Authority was told cafe and restaurant owner Lila Eshkehsou was at the end of her tether with her worker, who she felt was costing her business.

She described Mr Homan as being abrupt with customers who would "frequently"complain to her about the "really grumpy and angry worker".

A colleague described how he would "curse and get agitated" when customers came in.

Some nights he would close early, costing the small business hard-earned takings, they said.

On other occasions he was caught smoking cannabis at work.

The authority was told that he explained to his bosses that if he didn't smoke drugs, he would become "moody and angry".

Mr Homan denied the accusations made by his former colleagues and bosses during his 2011 employment.

ERA member Kenneth Anderson accepted Mr Homan's behaviour was "generally disruptive" and "irresponsible" but agreed he had a personal grievance case.

Mr Anderson said he could not ignore the fact that Ms Eshkehsou had failed to observe her legal requirements in dealing with Mr Homan in a "fair and reasonable" way.

Mr Homan had sought $15,000 compensation, especially since he had been "upset and humiliated" at being sacked via text message in June 2011.

But Mr Anderson awarded him just $500, with costs to lie where they fall.

Ms Eshkehsou said today that $500 was a small price to pay.

She accepted she had made a mistake in not following proper procedure in sacking Mr Homan.

"He deserved to be dismissed, but I probably could have done it in a better way.''

Ms Eshkehsou said she was pleased it was finished.

"It was such a heavy thing on me and my family.''

Her partner and cafe co-owner Taylor Ulufonua said they were new business owners and the hearing was a "huge learning curve''.

Mr Homan would not comment on the decision.


- Rotorua Daily Post

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