A lawyer who was accused by his employer of providing legal services to clients off the books and accessing "inappropriate websites" at work has been awarded $67,576 in lost wages and compensation for his wrongful dismissal.

Kerry Stace, 72, had worked as a lawyer in Waiuku, Auckland for 41 years before he was dismissed from his role as a consultant solicitor at Aurora Law Limited (ALL) in August 2014.

Stace had been a partner at law firm von Sturmer Ringer, which was purchased by ALL principal and director Mandy Rusk in 2014.

Stace entered an employment agreement with ALL in April 2014 and his employment agreement stated his employment "shall be up to three years but a minimum of two years."


Stace took a claim of unjustified dismissal to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) and in a decision released today member of the authority Robin Arthur found in favour of Stace.

ALL said it had never fired Stace, but said he left the company after Rusk raised concerns about his work and conduct with him.

One of ALL's concerns was that Stace was undertaking work as a Notary Public, a lawyer who can witness documents in the community, in exchange for cash that was kept off ALL's books.

The ERA found that his work as a notary public was not part of ALL's business and did not fall under his duties of employment.

In a letter given to Stace before his dismissal Rusk told Stace she was aware he was accessing "sex related websites" at work that was "highly inappropriate in the workplace of a law firm".

The ERA found there was no evidence to support Rusk's allegation and Stace had accessed social media sites and dating websites within a reasonable level of personal use.

At a meeting where Rusk raised her concerns about Stace's notary public work Rusk told Stace she felt their working relationship had deteriorated and he should consider taking an early retirement.

A letter that outlined clearly that Rusk believed Stace's employment with ALL was at an end was delivered to him three days after.

The ERA found ALL had not acted as a fair and reasonable employer by constructively dismissing Stace and awarded him $60,576 in lost income and $7000 for the loss of dignity and injury to his feelings.

Comment was been sought from ALL.

Read the full decision here: