A team leader for The Warehouse was dismissed for twice touching another female employee's breasts after a work awards ceremony.
Kim Randle lodged a complaint with the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) alleging she had been "set up" by the complainant and other staff and that both times the touching had been accidental.
Her complaint was dismissed by the Wellington ERA, which released its decision today.
Randle's version of events was that she had accidentally "tripped and fallen" onto the complainant's bed and "connected with her breasts".
"She said she later sat next to the complainant but slipped from the bed and in doing so may have grabbed the complainant's arms. Ms Randle said it 'could have happened when I came up the 2nd time' [again]'," the decision said.
The incident occurred in September 2016 after an awards ceremony for regional staff, who were booked to stay at a local hotel after the event.
About 12.30am, Randle and four other staff members went into one of their suites.
Two days later, the un-named complainant said in an email to her boss that when Randle entered the room, she "proceeded to try and climb into my bed with me and started grabbing, squeezing and rubbing my breasts saying how soft and round they where," the email says.
"I pushed her hand away and said what the hell... .Then she stood up and said I know I'm your boss and I hope your [sic] not in the union because I will deny everything."
The complainant said everyone else in the room was shocked.
"Then she went to the end of the bed and looked like she was going to strip her clothes off. We all looked at her and said what the hell are you doing don't do that. She replied isn't that what it is all about," the email said.
"Then she came and tried getting into bed with me again started to do the same to my breasts as she was doing before so I pushed her hand away again and said what the f***."
By this time one of the employees could see that the complainant was getting distressed and told Randle to go back to her room.
"The next morning down at breakfast she said with a big smile on her face ... 'I am sorry for molestering you last night in front of everyone' at the table," the email said.
The complainant told the ERA that she felt violated and had concerns about working with Randle.
Randle's representative pointed to one witness's comment that the complainant had laughed after the first event and Randle's statement that "everyone was laughing" after the second.
"There is an inference that this evidence demonstrates Ms Randle's actions were accepted by the group as accidental and not of concern to the complainant," the ERA decision said.
The Warehouse commenced an investigation the day after receiving the complainant's email, first interviewing her and meeting with Randle the day after.
The other three witnesses were then interviewed, all of whom considered the touching could not have been accidental.
While she accepted that she had touched the complaints breasts, albeit unintentionally, Randle denied using the words "for molestering you".
Statements were obtained by two additional people said by the complainant to have been at the breakfast when the apology was conveyed.
"Both statements said Ms Randle used the words alleged by the complainant."
Investigators for the Warehouse concluded that Randle's evidence was not credible and considered the conduct likely occurred.
Randle's employment was terminated with outstanding wages and entitlements paid soon after.
She told the ERA that one of the investigators had already formed a view of her guilt before giving proper consideration to her explanations.
ERA member Michele Ryan did not accept this.
She also rejected Randle's claim that the witnesses' evidence should be considered unreliable due some minor inconsistencies. Ryan said their evidence was routinely consistent on key aspects.
"There was an initial touching of the complainant's breasts by Ms Randle, the touching was accompanied by explicit comments, Ms Randle then removed herself from the bed for a short period of time, she returned to where the complainant was placed and touched the complainant again in the same area," the ERA member said.
The ERA member was satisfied that the Warehouse was justified in its decision to dismiss Randle, given the legitimate concerns it had about her judgment and behaviour with subordinate staff.
The Warehouse has been approached for comment and contact details for Randle are being sought.