A care worker accused of intimidating and yelling at a colleague in earshot of a client has been awarded more than $30,000 in lost wages and compensation.
The Employment Relations Authority found care worker Todd Longson was unjustifiably dismissed by Insight NZ which provides residential care for people with intellectual disabilities.
Longson was awarded $15,000 in compensation for the dismissal and $16,750 in lost wages.
The alleged serious misconduct related to an incident in November 2018 when Longson and his colleague Debbie Pedersen were doing the morning handover.
According to Pedersen, Longson intimidated her by leaning over her, telling her to stop yelling and talking over her.
He closed the door of the room they were in and held it shut.
Pedersen said she felt unsafe especially in the small confined room.
When she left the room she saw the resident, who was the only other person at the property, was distressed.
The resident asked her "if Todd was being a dick again?"
Pederson said Longson leaned over her again later in the day when he returned to work, to talk about the morning incident.
Pederson said Longson had a history of intimidating behaviour.
Longson countered this claim and said there was a vendetta against him.
Insight NZ did not accept that Longson was the victim of a vendetta but said: "when he does not like what he hears, he reacts by using his size and voice to shout over the top and drown out the message and intimidate to achieve his own way."
It considered this was deliberate and calculated or showed a complete lack of self-awareness that was damaging to the workplace environment.
In it's evidence to the ERA Insight NZ said Longson had difficulty taking instruction from women.
The ERA found that Longson's conduct on two occasions was "unacceptable" but "could not reasonably be considered serious misconduct" which would have entitled the company to terminate his employment without notice.
The authority said there was no warning given to Longson and concerns that Longson had difficulties taking instructions from women should have been raised through a performance appraisal process.
The intimidating effect experienced by colleagues and managers caused by Longson's size, tone, and mannerisms could also have been raised, the ERA said.
"These steps could have maintained a productive employment relationship."
"The difficulty for Insight NZ is that a fair and reasonable employer could not have concluded that Longson's behaviour had become "unmanageable" so as to destroy the employment relationship," the ERA said in its report.
Longson said after he was dismissed from his job at Insight NZ he was too depressed to work for three or four months.
However, part of this was attributed to a back injury suffered in February 2019.
The ERA found there was a long-term financial impact for Longson stemming from his dismissal because he subsequently earned less from current permanent employment than at Insight NZ.