A former funeral parlour worker has been awarded over $21,000 after being unjustifiably sacked.
According to an Employment Relations Authority (ERA) decision, released today, Angela Stojanovich was dismissed from Poppy Funerals after an incident - which is not detailed in the decision - in February this year.
Jasmin Teague, a shareholder and director of Remembrance Funerals, which operated the Christchurch business, dismissed her after making "some vague references to Ms Stojanovich being better suited to a larger funeral business where she may be able to learn embalming".
"It appears that Ms Teague had an issue with Ms Stojanovich's work on 8 February 2017. There was a misunderstanding between Ms Stojanovich and Ms Teague's mother, who was also working at Poppy Funerals, over who would do a certain task," the decision says.
Despite numerous attempts to contact the business, the ERA was not able to contact Remembrance or Teague so it did not participate in the proceeding.
Stojanovich's advocate submitted that any dismissal could not have been justified as she signed her employment agreement after she had commenced work, meaning the 90-day trial period was not valid.
It was further argued there was no process followed by Remembrance in coming to its decision to dismiss.
The ERA agreed, finding Remembrance had failed to follow a fair process on a number of grounds including failing to investigate the allegation of poor work performance, failing to give Stojanovich a reasonable chance to respond to the allegation, and failing to consider any explanation Stojanovich did provide.
Stojanovich said that as a result of the dismissal she was angry, upset and felt betrayed. She also told the ERA she was stressed for some weeks, became tearful, emotional and depressed.
"I accept that Ms Stojanovich was only employed for a short period of time and
was able to find new employment relatively quickly but the evidence of the impact on
her was clear, credible and compelling," the ERA concluded.
It awarded her $15,000 for compensation for hurt, humiliation and loss of dignity, $2076.00 in wages she would have otherwise earned, and $727 in lost wages. Remembrance was also ordered to pay Stojanovich $3,500 as contribution to her costs and $72 for the filing fee on her claim.
Remembrance nor Teague could be reached for comment. Poppy Funerals ceased trading earlier this year.
In September, the Herald reported on other complaints about Poppy Funerals including by Michelle Bishop, whose 24-year-old daughter Sharnae McLean died unexpectedly the previous month.
The registered nurse and mother of a 5-year-old daughter, who was also 10 weeks pregnant, died in her sleep.
Bishop said the first warning signs came after her daughter's body was returned to the family four days after her death.
But within two hours, Bishop said she noticed her daughter's face "changing colour very quickly" and turning grey.
She phoned Teague who arrived quickly and said it could have been a reaction to the embalming.
She claims that Teague - who has strongly denied there were any problems over embalming the body - then produced a Thin Lizzy foundation powder compact and started dusting McLean's face.
By the next day, the family noticed a strange smell coming from the coffin. They then noticed that McLean's hand had "gone flat and turned crimson black".
Bishop said the entire funeral process - before, during, and after - had been a "nightmare" for the devastated family.
Teague denied the allegations at the time.
Another complaint was made by Maree Ford, whose 47-year-old husband Graham chose Poppy Funerals eight months ago after being diagnosed with bowel cancer.
More than a month after he died, the funeral parlour hadn't registered his death, despite being required to do so within three days.