The Employment Relations Authority has awarded an aged care worker $20,000 in compensation and ordered her employer to reinstate her after it found she was unjustifiably dismissed.
Treena Radcliffe was working as a healthcare assistant at CHT Glynavon Home and Hospital in Te Puke when she was accused of serious misconduct and fired.
An Employment Relations Authority determination stated Radcliffe was subject of a "flawed" investigation into an incident involving a resident, referred to in the decision as Mr X.
In March, Radcliffe was working with student nurse Joelle Farminer when they were alerted to Mr X getting out of bed beyond bedtime and found him on his hands and knees. Radcliffe instructed the student to leave Mr X to try to get himself up, which he did, and make his way to a seat.
Mr X tried to get up from the chair but was repeatedly pushed back by Radcliffe, who instructed him to stay in the seat. She did so to prevent Mr X from falling over and harming himself or her because he was considered to be a "falls risk", the determination stated.
However, the student believed Radcliffe used excessive force and reported Radcliffe to her student nurse educator at Toi Ohomai. Radcliffe was eventually suspended while an investigation into her conduct was held.
Radcliffe was fired on May 3.
The student said "I felt very upset and hurt by what I had witnessed" but later admitted she might have got things wrong.
Authority member Anna Fitzgibbon said there were significant flaws in the investigation, run by unit manager Michelle Watson and area manager Carol Ropati who "relied on third-hand information" which was not checked.
Fitzgibbon said, in her view, Watson and Ropati formed a view in their minds very early on "even though the overwhelming evidence gathered by Ms Watson and Ms Ropati, excepting Ms Farminer, supported Ms Radcliffe's version of events, they did not accept her version of events".
A Glynavon nurse there that night did not believe Radcliffe's pushes were excessive and Mr X could not identify Radcliffe as mistreating him.
The authority ruled Radcliffe be reinstated to her former role, despite the employer's objections.