A former Vodafone receptionist says she felt bullied into working under a vent in the company's reception area where maggots fell from the ceiling for two days.
But the company says it moved the receptionists to a different area, told the contract workers they could go home on full pay and offered free counselling to support them.
The woman, who doesn't want to be named, said the incident happened on December 19 and 20 last year - in her last days of working as a contractor for Vodafone.
She said it was around 1pm on December 19 when the first maggot fell onto her co-workers computer at the reception desk of Vodafone's Auckland head office.
When more maggots continued to fall the woman said they set up a temporary standing reception about three metres away from where the maggots were dropping.
"We were not allowed to move further away. The area was cordoned off. Upper management would not allow us to have stools or anywhere to sit."
The woman came into work the next morning and found several dozen maggots around the reception desk and some on the seats in the cafe which was also in the atrium area.
"We were instructed to call the cleaners and tell them that there was more "breakfast" in the Atrium. This became the codeword for maggots. My co-worker and myself set up another standing reception."
But within an hour of starting work the worker claims the receptionists were told by Vodafone management to get back behind the reception desk while the barriers were removed from the area.
"Maggots are still dropping. I explained this to the most senior manager and we were simply told "Ladies, behind the desk."
The woman said her co-worker then became too distraught to work and went into a back room, while she rang her employment agency to confirm she would not lose her holiday pay if she refused to work, as it was her last day on the job.
"One senior Vodafone manager and one manager from my agency had multiple meetings. I left the desk upon confirmation that I would not lose pay and returned to my co-worker in the back."
"The manager from my company walks into the back, claps his hands, and says, "Right, who's going out there?". I say that neither of us are going out (maggots are falling constantly). I explain that it is a "flat refusal" to work under these conditions."
The manager then suggests the women meet with the Vodafone manager who had previously told them to get back behind the reception desk.
"I refuse and say that I will not have a conversation with her unless I have an HR rep from my company with me."
The woman said she was then told if they did not continue to work behind the desk they would get an official warning.
"This was a very emotional point for both my co-worker and myself. We felt entirely alone and were being bullied. We were also exasperated that this situation even occurred."
They are then told by the agency's HR representative that they can't be given a warning because they are contractors and don't work directly for Vodafone. They are advised by her to leave the building.
The woman said she didn't leave because it was her last day and she wanted to spend time with friends made at the company.
The receptionists were not allowed to sit at the temporary reception but were given extra breaks from the normal reception desk.
The woman said she wanted to speak out about the situation because she wanted to highlight a culture of bullying in the building.
"This example is one of many, and definitely the most disgusting. Vodafone does not have an adequate whistle blowing system and I feel that speaking with you is the only way to improve the system," she said.
A Vodafone spokeswoman confirmed that it had identified and urgently dealt with an "unfortunate and unforeseeable pest control incident" at its Auckland head office.
"Maggots were discovered above our reception area, and we immediately closed it and cordoned it off."
The problem was linked to a trapped and deceased bird in the roof above its reception.
She said the receptionists were moved to a separate area and advised by their employer, Converga, they were welcome to go home with full pay.
"Vodafone also extended additional support, including free Employee Assistance Programme counselling."
The spokeswoman said it had been corresponding with a former receptionist and had asked her contact its health and safety manager to provide specific details of her concerns which she had not done.
"The individual confirmed to us in writing that she agrees "the health and safety issue was resolved on the afternoon of December 20th," however despite our requests they have not provided details of their specific concerns which would enable Max [it's health and safety manager} to investigate further."
The spokeswoman encouraged the woman to get back in touch.
She said Vodafone prided itself on its culture of diversity and inclusion and industry-leading policies in areas of equal pay, family violence and bullying & harassment.
"We don't condone any bullying or harassment and thoroughly investigate any allegations.
"We have a variety of ways people can access support for bullying and harassment concerns, including an anonymous Speak Up hotline as well as Employee Assistance Programme confidential counselling services."
She said the services were available to all workers, including contractors.
The spokeswoman said it had also contacted the woman's agency, Converga, in response to her concerns.
"Despite the fact that she had not raised a complaint with them about this incident, we encouraged them to investigate further.
"They subsequently interviewed all of their Vodafone-based employees – not limited to the receptionists – to discuss their workplace environment and determine if any workers had concerns about harassment or bullying.
"There were no incidents of this reported during these discussions, thus no further follow-up deemed necessary."