An Auckland mechanic who was verbally and physically assaulted by his colleagues has been awarded $25,000 in compensation.
The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) found the man, only referred to as Mr A, to have been constructively dismissed by his employer, which it did not name, after serious and repeated breaches of its duty to provide a safe workplace.
Mr A was awarded $25,000 as distress compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings he suffered as a result of the unjustified dismissal.
Mr A resigned from his role of approximately 10 years as a mechanic at the business on August 23, 2016 because he felt unsafe at work, having been assaulted twice by two different colleagues.
The company employs eight employees, four of which are mechanics, and is part of a global franchise, though is a small workplace.
Prior to the first assault, a number of the other mechanics had reportedly become angry towards Mr A when they found out that he had made two recordings of them allegedly bullying a younger colleague, Mr S, and reported it to management.
Mr A was first assaulted at work on July 7, 2016 by Mr W.
As captured the business' video surveillance, Mr W grabbed Mr A by both his shoulders and forcibly pushed him up against the wall more than once, resulting in Mr A injuring the back of his head.
Mr W then used his forearms against Mr A's throat to restrain him against the wall while speaking to him in what appeared to be an aggressive and intimidating manner.
The assault resulted in Mr A requiring time off work.
The authority said the company failed to appropriately respond to Mr W's assault of Mr A and it did not investigate the incident or the events leading up to it.
According to ERA documents, the business did not identify, address or resolve any underlying problems between Mr A and Mr W and they did not make Mr W apologise or acknowledge any wrongdoing.
The firm knew that Mr W was angry about being charged by police and that he and Mr A had to keep working alongside each other while criminal proceedings went through the court system.
Furthermore, the business gave Mr W a positive written reference stating that Mr W's "indiscretion" was no more than "an adult version of a playground shove" and occurred under "extreme provocation".
Following the assault Mr A complained to his manager about the way the other mechanics were treating him.
The complaint included issues involving; the other mechanics not acknowledging or speaking to him; abusive comments and rubbish being deliberately tipped over his desk.
An occupational therapist noted in a report that she observed "tense relations with other employees" and a "fractious work environment".
Mr A was assault for a second time on August 1, 2016, this time by Mr L.
Again Mr A was injured in the assault and deemed unfit to work in any capacity after being medically assessed by ACC.
According to ERA documents, on the day of the second assault Mr L had been acting in an angry and aggressive manner towards Mr A.
While in the lunchroom Mr A had put his food in the microwave to heat before leaving the lunchroom. While he was out, Mr L unplugged the microwave.
When Mr A returned to the lunchroom he confronted Mr L, who then began yelling abuse at Mr A, calling him a "piece of s**t" and threatening to "f**k [Mr A] up".
Mr L moved from the lunchroom to the office, where their manager was, continuing to yell abuse. Mr A followed Mr L to the office to tell Mr J what had occurred in the lunchroom.
It was there when Mr L grabbed Mr A in a headlock and started punching him repeatedly in the head and ribs.
Mr A's injuries included a concussion and he was forced to go to the hospital the following day after losing consciousness.
According to ERA documents, the business did not report the assault on Mr A as an incident of serious harm.
The authority said the business failed to adequately investigate the assault and did not accept its position that an investigation was not necessary as Mr L had accepted termination of his employment on the day of the incident.
Four days later the business started a disciplinary process against Mr A by sending him a letter alleging he had engaged in serious misconduct consisting of "deliberate misconduct likely to result in harm to fellow employees, threatening language or conduct and harassing behaviour".
The letter outlined "tension" between Mr A and other staff and Mr A displaying a "negative and disruptive attitude".
On August 23, 2016, while still on sick leave, Mr A resigned from the company before a scheduled disciplinary meeting.
Mr A said he did not agree with the contents of the disciplinary letter and he resigned because he did not believe the business would keep him safe at work because it had blamed him for being assaulted without even seeking his view of the situation.
In his personal grievance letter to the authority, Mr A said his former employer failed to provide a safe workplace and address the health and safety concerns he had.
The business was very critical of Mr A in its written statements to the authority, however, was unable to provide any written record of warnings about his behaviour or conduct nor any prior complaints being made about Mr A to management.
In its ruling, the authority said Mr A's resignation was constructive dismissal because the company's serious and repeated breaches of its duty to provide a safe workplace lead Mr A to resign.
The authority said the business' actions, and how it acted, in response to Mr A being bullied were not that of a fair and reasonable employer.
The level of compensation, $25,000, was set by the authority as Mr A suffered significant physical mental emotional and financial harm as a result of the various workplace issues that occurred, which include the two assaults on him.
The authority also took into account Mr A still suffers adverse medical consequences almost a year after the second assault on him.