A gym manager who lost his job after returning from holiday to find several complaints had been made against him has been awarded $6000 compensation.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) found his employer, Snap Fitness, was unjustified in firing Mathew Milne as the complaints made were about performance, rather than serious misconduct.

Mr Milne was employed to run the Palmerston North gym 24/7 in early 2013 and was the sole employee at the facility.

He and other personal trainers were also encouraged to train clients at the gym, running their own businesses out of 24/7.


Mr Milne was granted 12 weeks leave between June and September 2014 to travel to the United States with his partner.

When he returned he found complaints had been made about his conduct with both clients and staff.

It was alleged that Mr Milne had been rude to customers and failed to take seriously a number of complaints made about the safety in the gym.

He was also accused by another trainer of taking four hour lunch breaks, an accusation the ERA found no basis for, noting the trainer who made the complaint "clearly did not get on" with Mr Milne.

"It is significant that no other complaint was received about Mr Milne's alleged regular absences," the authority said.

As a result of the complaints Korey Gibson, Mr Milne's boss, accused him of eight counts of serious misconduct and said these were grounds for dismissal.

"As a manager there is a high level of trust and confidence that is required: my trust and confidence in you to remain in the role has been seriously eroded," Mr Gibson wrote in a letter to Mr Milne.

"My interim decision is to dismiss for serious misconduct."


However the ERA found that, with one possible exception, the accusations were "matters of performance, not matters of serious misconduct."

The ERA said warnings or further training would have been the appropriate course of action, rather than dismissal.

"It was therefore not open to Snap Fitness to dismiss Mr Milne over the vast majority of the complaints raised against him."

The ERA found compensation appropriate because of the effect being fired had on Mr Milne.

"Mr Milne was deeply affected by his dismissal. It affected his self-confidence in particular, as well as his standing in the Palmerston North fitness community and his career opportunities."

However the ERA chose not to award Mr Milne compensation for lost wages as he had not taken any opportunity to look for work after being fired, instead returning to the United States to stay with his partner's family.