An engineer labelled a "f****** sniveller" during a foul-mouthed tirade by his boss has been awarded $94,000 by the Employment Relations Authority.

James Irvine had worked for Timaru-based company Andar Holdings for several years before it was sold to engineering firm Wallace & Cooper.

He stayed on as the company's sales and marketing manager, for which he was to be paid $150,000 a year.

According to an ERA decision released yesterday, two days after he signed an employment agreement with his new employer in June last year, Mr Irvine had a run-in with managing director Gary Cross because he had not been paid.


He took a case for constructive dismissal to the Employment Relations Authority seeking $300,000 in lost wages and compensation of $30,000.

He alleged Mr Cross told him in a phone call: "You're no longer in the front corner office. You are now in the back office! You are a piece of s*** and you do exactly what I tell you! If I tell you to s*** in a corner you s*** in a f****** corner!" Mr Cross reportedly told him.

Mr Cross denied he had said this, claiming he had told Mr Irvine: "If you're told to sit in the corner, then you sit in the corner."

However, Mr Irvine's version was backed up by another employee who heard the exchange.

The ERA was also played an excerpt from an audio recording secretly made by Mr Irvine during a meeting with Mr Cross.

In it, Mr Cross could be heard using the F-word or its derivatives many times, accompanied by the sound of him banging a table for emphasis.

He referred to the company's accounts and accounting procedure as "a crock of s***" which were so unreliable that "I'd wipe my a*** on them".

"This mode of address is consistent with his habitual form of expression employing faecal or defecatory references," said Alastair Dumbleton, chief of the Auckland ERA.


Mr Cross's liberal use of words such as "s***" and "a***hole" were again demonstrated when Mr Irvine had handed him his resignation letter.

"This man is an a***hole. He has backstabbed every single one of you in the office," he reportedly told other employees as Mr Irvine made his exit from the meeting.

Mr Irvine gave only one hour's notice when he resigned, drawing another outburst from Mr Cross.

"You have given one hour's notice. You sit on your chair in your office. You don't do anything. You don't talk to anyone. You don't leave for an hour."

As he was preparing to leave, Mr Cross called Mr Irvine a "sniveller".

"You're just a f****** sniveller. Why don't you go and talk to your mate ... . In fact I'll ring him now. You're just a f****** sniveller. You're just a f****** sniveller, mate".

Mr Dumbleton found Mr Cross had a "verbal explosion" and used the words as claimed by Mr Irvine.

He ordered the company to pay him $19,000 compensation.

"I am satisfied that Mr Irvine suffered significant humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to his feelings as a result of being forced by the gross behaviour of Mr Cross," he said.

It was reasonable to expect that Mr Irvine would have remained at the job at least another six months had it not been for Mr Cross's behaviour, so he also ordered it to pay him $75,000 for six months' lost wages.

Mr Dumbleton said Mr Irvine's departure and the way it occurred caused him shame and loss of self-esteem. "As Mr Irvine aptly described his departure, it was 'a horrible ending to a lifetime's work'."

Mr Irvine declined to comment when contacted by APNZ because he said there was still a possibility the case would be appealed. Mr Cross did not return phone calls.

Employment law specialist Tim McGinn said he would be surprised if the decision was not challenged,

"Mr Dumbleton made a significant award of compensation for hurt and humiliation which I was concerned about because a large amount of that seemed to be apportioned to feelings associated with his previous employer," he said.

"It seems to me a surprising finding, particularly when, as the authority member also noted, this guy had some concerns about going to the new employer."APNZ