A man went from earning $115,000 as an IT analyst to living in his car and working as an Uber Eats driver after he was sacked under the 90-day-trial rule.
Ahmed Alkazaz, 31, lost his lucrative position in New Zealand days before his wedding in Egypt, which he'd poured his savings into - and had to spend his honeymoon applying for jobs.
The Employment Relations Authority ruled he was unjustifiably sacked and has awarded him $35,500 in lost wages, compensation and part of the financial penalty imposed on his former employer, Enterprise IT.
The company said it was considering an appeal.
Alkazaz, originally from Egypt, was hired in September last year to be a senior Oracle database analyst at Enterprise IT.
Three months later the company dismissed him, stating that his employment would not be extended beyond the 90-day trial. It said the sacking was based on Alkazaz's performance, which managers believed was at the junior database administrator level.
Alkazaz had been called to a series of meetings with company managers which he thought were standard catch-ups, but which were in fact about his performance.
"Behind the scenes E-IT was assembling a list of what were seen as mistakes and errors [committed] by Mr Alkazaz from at least 31 October 2016," the authority member who considered the case, Nicola Craig, said in her decision.
"However, that list was not put to him whilst he was still employed, although some matters from it were discussed with him.
"Mr Alkazaz was not told that he was going through a performance management process or a disciplinary process. There was no formal performance management or improvement plan. He did not receive any warnings.
"With one exception, Mr Alkazaz does not accept that he made mistakes when working at E-IT."
His employment agreement contained a trial-period clause which purported to prevent him from making a claim for unjustified dismissal. But when challenged by Alkazaz's lawyer, the company acknowledged the clause did not meet the requirements of the Employment Relations Act.
However, Craig trimmed the lost wages and compensation payout by 20 per cent from her starting point because she accepted that Alkazaz seemed unable to perform at the expected level and unwilling to recognise problems in his performance.
Alkazaz told Craig the wedding in Egypt was ruined by the dismissal. He felt ashamed to face his family and his fiance Nagham Eldemiri's family.
"He felt emasculated as he was not going to be able to provide for her," Craig wrote. "Her family pressured her to postpone or cancel the wedding and there was some volatile reaction to the couple."
The honeymoon was depressing because Alkazaz had to apply for jobs. He initially remained in Dubai with his family and was unable to bring his wife to New Zealand immediately as he had no job to support or sponsor her for immigration purposes.
"His wife became pregnant [baby Adam is now 2 months old] which has added to the stress and upset of being unemployed."
After he returned to New Zealand, Alkazaz lived in his car for two months because he couldn't afford fixed accommodation.
"He has not found it easy to obtain other employment and is concerned about his loss of reputation in the industry."
Alkazaz told the Herald he had had some IT work but needed to supplement that with Uber Eats driving to satisfy immigration requirements for his wife to be in New Zealand.
Because he needed the money, he repeatedly exceeded the permitted Uber Eats hours and his driver account was deactivated.
The authority's decision in his favour has been a boost to Alkazaz, but he said there was now uncertainty whether he and his family could stay in New Zealand. He has written a blog detailing his experiences.
An E-IT director, Duane McLeod, said: "We are very disappointed with the ERA's decision and are considering challenging it to the Employment Court."