Staff complaints after ‘Sutton’ antics.

A city chief executive is being accused of kissing female staff at a company Christmas party - and joking he was acting "a bit like Roger Sutton".

The apparently amorous boss kissed some women on their cheeks and others on their foreheads, says an Auckland employment lawyer acting for the man's company.

He had given one senior manager a kiss on the lips, which had led to a complaint of sexual harassment.

The incident is one of at least three Christmas party-related complaints under investigation, and employment lawyers and advocates told the Herald on Sunday business would increase in the New Year.


Sutton, the former Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority boss, fell from grace after a senior manager accused him of repeated acts of sexual harassment. At the organisation's Christmas party last year he allegedly suggested every Friday be "visible G-string Friday". Sutton resigned and State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie said the behaviour was "serious misconduct".

End-of-year blowouts are a danger time for misbehaviour, fuelled by the excitement of the festive season and often alcohol.

Alcohol was believed to be involved in the kissing incidents involving the Auckland chief executive, said the employment lawyer, who asked not to be named to protect those involved in the case.

He wouldn't name the chief executive, or the small Auckland company he led, but said women were kissed on their cheeks or foreheads, and one on the lips.

"He decided he might like to spread his affection around the female staff by kissing them."

Simpson Grierson is also acting for an employer over a Christmas Party incident, but lawyer Carl Black wouldn't reveal more.

The company saw the same complaints every year and "they're all alcohol-related", he said.

Employment advocate Danny Gelb is helping an employee under investigation over an incident at a Christmas party, but also wouldn't give details. He previously helped save the job - "just" - of a man who took a photo of his former manager over the partition of toilet during a Christmas party. The man claimed he mistook his former manager for a friend.


Several employment lawyers and advocates said Christmas party misbehaviour was a fraction of what occurred 20 or 30 years ago.

Dundas Street Employment Lawyers' partner Blair Scotland once saved the job of a senior manager who exposed his genitals to 50 staff at a Christmas party, although he couldn't save the man from the wrath of his wife.

"She told him to pull his head in."

Some employers had pulled back from the "traditionally boozy affair", fearing responsibility for their employees harming themselves or others, Scotland said.

Whitehead Group employment advocate Max Whitehead said some employers now banned alcohol at staff functions. Others replaced Christmas parties with gifts or days at Rainbow's End.