A husband and wife who worked for the same Timaru earthworks company were under pressure to buy into the company before they unfairly lost their jobs.

Aaron and Amanda McNoe were employed by O'Neill Earthworks Ltd and have been awarded close to $25,000 by the Employment Relations Authority after they were unjustifiably dismissed together, leaving their family of six without any income.

They began working for Daniel O'Neill in October 2014, and were offered the opportunity to become shareholders and take equity in his company.

In early December 2014, the McNoes discussed with a financial adviser the position of the company and how much money they could raise to buy a stake in the company.


Aaron McNoe advised O'Neill that the couple could borrow $80,000 towards buying into the company. He asked about expenditure shown in financial records, which O'Neill couldn't answer.

In January last year O'Neill and Aaron McNoe were on a jobsite when O'Neill said the company could not afford to employ himself and Aaron McNoe and that one of them would have to leave.

O'Neill said now would be a good time for the McNoes to buy into the company, but still didn't answer Aaron McNoe's questions about expenditure.

The next day Aaron McNoe asked O'Neill what his wife's future position was at the company. O'Neill said he couldn't afford to continue to employ Amanda McNoe and he confirmed that her employment was terminated. He asked Aaron McNoe to tell his wife that she had lost her job.

The McNoes had booked annual leave to begin the following day and Aaron McNoe received a text message from O'Neill asking why he had not returned any of the company's property.

In a phone call, O'Neill said he wouldn't be paying the couple any money until they returned the company's vehicle to him.

Aaron McNoe asked why he needed to do this when he was on holiday, to which O'Neill replied "No, as of yesterday you are finished."

Aaron McNoe said he responded that he was on holiday and holiday pay had already been negotiated.

O'Neill said, "Get f***ed, you're not getting your money until I get my gear back," and hung up on Aaron McNoe.

At the Employment Relations Authority, O'Neill argued there was a mutual agreement to end the working relationship. Authority member Helen Doyle rejected the argument and found Aaron McNoe's dismissal was unjustified.

O'Neill Earthworks Limited was ordered to pay $9800 in lost wages and holiday pay to Aaron and Amanda McNoe.

Aaron McNoe told the ERA that Timaru was a tight-knit community and he was humiliated about losing his job. His family was left without an income because Amanda McNoe lost her job, too. The couple were awarded $15,000 as compensation.

Read the decision here: