A Warkworth worker accused of making violent threats against another staff member has been awarded more than $12,000 after his former employer failed to properly investigate the incident.
Riviera Hardware Holdings Limited (RHHL), which operates Mitre 10 Mega in Warkworth, was ordered by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) to pay Bevan Musson $7500 compensation and $5120 in lost wages for unfair dismissal.
Musson was dismissed from his role as a sales team member for serious misconduct after a manager allegedly overheard him making threats of violence against "another team member" while talking to other employees at the store on September 30, 2017.
RHHL told the authority the comments made by Musson on September 30 were about another employee, only referred to as JP by the ERA, who had previously worked at its Warkworth store but had since moved to another store managed by the company.
According to evidence provided to the authority, Musson was allegedly overheard making comments to "a group of staff members at the checkout" about JP saying that "if he [JP] came back to work here he would f**king punch his face in, knock his f**king lights out".
In addition, Musson was accused of saying that "the thing [JP] needed was a f**king hiding and he would be the one to sort [JP] out."
RHHL appointed its trade and general manager Grant McLeod as its decision-maker for the disciplinary inquiry.
At a disciplinary meeting held on November 23, 2017, Musson was asked to explain what happened, the authority heard.
According to notes made from the meeting, Musson said the background was "a relatively big incident between me [Musson] and [JP] in the past that never got sorted out."
The authority heard Musson told those at the disciplinary meeting that he considered what he said to RH was "a private conversation" but accepted other workers were within hearing distance.
Musson denied saying JP "needed … a hiding", but told the authority "what I think I said was that someone should give him a hiding, not that I should be one to give him one".
Musson also denied saying he would punch JP's face or "knock his … lights out".
Four days after the disciplinary meeting they met again where McLeod delivered his decision to dismiss Musson.
Gibson had asked McLeod to consider imposing a final written warning rather than dismissal, noting that Musson had been allowed to keep working during the course of the disciplinary meeting, which suggested there was still a level of trust and confidence in him.
In its determination, the authority ruled RHHL's decision to dismiss Musson for serious misconduct was faulty and its actions unjustified after their own investigation found RHHL had failed to conduct a sufficiently full and fair investigation of its concerns about Musson.
Robin Arthur, a member of the ERA, said RHHL could not safely reach its conclusion of serious misconduct given the shortcomings of McLeod's investigation.
The authority found three key failures into the failure to conduct a full and fair investigation were the decisions or oversight made by RHHL in not interviewing fellow workers RH and BC or Musson's former department manager Ray Archer, who were each likely, in the authority's view, to have relevant information that needed to be gathered.
It further added it was unsatisfactory to simply accept RH saying she did not want to comment or be involved.
Arthur said the defects in RHHL's process were more than minor, and Musson was treated unfairly because relevant information was not gathered, checked or provided to him for further comment or explanation.
RHHL managing director Cam Caithness said the ERA's decision was based around the fact that a team member wasn't made to give a statement.
"We asked her to make a statement, she was in fear of repercussions … and we had to take her well-being into account."
After awarding Musson $10,000 compensation for hurt and humiliation, the authority applied a one quarter reduction due to elements of Musson's conduct contributing in a blameworthy way to the situation giving rise to his grievance.