The company that runs Whangarei's Kingdom of Zion wildlife park has been ordered to pay a former employee almost $11,000 for outstanding wages, holiday pay and annual leave.
But the Employment Relations Authority has ruled that Earth Crest did not unjustifiably dismiss the man.
Neville Bradford left his job as a groundsman at the park, in Kamo, in July 2012 - six months after taking the role - and in November that year filed a personal grievance with the ERA alleging he was unjustifiably dismissed by Earth Crest and was owed outstanding unpaid wages and holiday pay totalling $13,911.55 by Earth Crest.
The company denied it terminated Mr Bradford's employment which it claims ended by mutual agreement, but accepted that it owed Mr Bradford the sum of $2461.15.
In her decision, ERA member Eleanor Robinson ruled that Mr Bradford's employment was terminated by mutual agreement. She upheld Mr Bradford's claim for outstanding unpaid wages and holiday pay, awarding him $7751.25 in outstanding wages; $1385.10 in annual leave entitlement; $1375 for statutory holidays worked but not paid and $4542.50 in interest - $10,953.85 in total.
Mr Bradford started working at the park in January 2012, with Earth Crest paying for his accommodation on the site, but in March that year park manager Michelle Potter reduced his hours to 40 per week.
The company asked him take breaks because it was concerned for his health and well-being, with Ms Potter noting: "It would be remiss of me as manager, to not heed these signs of an over-tired employee, in a physically demanding, potentially dangerous workplace."
After a series of meetings with company representatives, culminating with a meeting that included Lion Man Craig Busch on July 17, Mr Bradford entered into negotiations with Earth Crest, which resulted in an agreement of the terms on which his employment would end.
At the meeting, Mr Bradford said Mr Busch had referred to the fact there had been serious allegation made about Mr Bradford, but when questioned, Mr Busch had provided no details.
During the course of the meeting, Mr Bradford said he reached the conclusion that Earth Crest no longer wanted him to work at the park, and he had decided that he no longer wanted to work there hence the negotiations.
However, despite the agreement, payments to Mr Bradford ceased in September that year, more than four months ahead of schedule.
Earth Crest said the payments had been suspended due to concerns about the destination of payments which appeared to have been made to Mr Bradford through various entities and not to his personal bank account.