A Whakatane woman accused of "time theft" by her employer has been awarded more than $14,000 after she was fired from her merchandising job.

Janet Pool said she filed an unjust dismissal case not for the money, but to clear her name in a small town.

The Employment Relations Authority found Ms Pool was unjustifiably dismissed by San Remo Pasta Limited on April 14 last year.

Ms Pool had been working for San Remo as a merchandiser for almost two years when she was dismissed by letter by San Remo's human resources manager Duanne Banham.


The letter said an investigation had proven allegations she incorrectly recorded hours worked at stores, falsely claimed pay for those hours, and did not give honest answers during the company's investigation.

Mr Banham wrote she was being dismissed for "serious and wilful breach" of her obligations as an employee.

On March 24 this year, San Remo's central North Island territory manager Steve Millsteed (Ms Pool's direct manager) emailed San Remo's New Zealand sales manager Kerry Wharerau identifying five dates on which he said Ms Pool had claimed pay for more hours than she worked.

He also referred to some problems in work arrangements between Ms Pool and another merchandiser.

Mr Millsteed also reported he had learned Ms Pool had been involved in a previous instance of what he called "time theft and claiming hours she did not work". He wrote in his email "We are dealing with a dishonest person".

In a phone call from Mr Wharerau, Ms Pool was asked to explain the hours she had worked on five dates.

One of the dates was three weeks prior to the day of the call while the remainder were between four and six months earlier.

At a later meeting Ms Pool was asked more questions about her hours of work and what she had entered on timesheets.

After the meeting Mr Wharerau checked login records from some supermarkets and, comparing that information given by Ms Pool, concluded she had deliberately recorded inaccurate information. He then sent Ms Pool a dismissal letter.

The authority, in determining whether Ms Pool had been unjustifiably dismissed, believed San Remo failed to sufficiently investigate allegations against her, failed to provide all information necessary to her, failed to give her the chance to respond to further information they had gathered and failed to disclose the prejudicial allegation that she was a dishonest person.

They also looked at whether concerns about Ms Pool's interactions with another merchandiser were relevant and concluded they were not.

On 23 March, the day before Mr Millsteed emailed Mr Wharerau about Ms Pool, Mr Millsteed advised Whakatane Pak'n Save operator Andrew Soutar that he had received a complaint from another merchandiser about bullying behaviour by Ms Pool.

Mr Millsteed told Mr Soutar San Remo would investigate her complaint. Mr Soutar emailed that information about Ms Pool to a representative of another of the companies Ms Pool was a merchandiser for.

In a later email to that representative Mr Soutar wrote that he did not want "a person like this" working in his store.

Ms Pool sought approximately 10 months' lost wages and $30,000 compensation for distress caused by her dismissal.

Evidence provided had established Ms Pool was greatly upset by the accusations made about her conduct and how San Remo carried out its investigation. She was tearful and embarrassed.

She was awarded three months' wages totalling $2158 and $12,000 compensation.

Ms Pool said the case was never about the money but about restoring her tarnished reputation.

"I've been merchandising for years and it is a job I love," Ms Pool said.

"When these allegations were made, I was unable to continue in a merchandising role and that hasn't changed to date as, while I am able to shop at Pak'n Save, the owner will not consent to me working there as a merchandiser."

Ms Pool's lawyer Jonathan Kay said he would be seeking costs from San Remo Limited and also asking for Ms Pool to be re-instated at Pak'n Save.