A truck driver who was pepper-sprayed and arrested was unfairly sacked after police sent "prejudicial" information to his employer.
Gavin Bailey worked as a truck driver for PTS Logistics for about four-and-a-half months before he was sacked in August 2011.
Mr Bailey told the Employment Relations Authority the company made several procedural errors before dismissing him, and the roadside flare-up with a constable preceding his sacking was unrelated to his job.
PTS argued his dismissal was justified.
After celebrating his daughter's 18th birthday in Taupo, Mr Bailey and two other people took a work truck for a short drive to test a recent repair. He had permission from PTS to be in Taupo and to repair the truck's radiator hose.
On August 6, 2011, police stopped Mr Bailey for a routine roadside check. But when a constable asked him to produce a log book, a disagreement erupted and Mr Bailey drove away.
Police officer Trevor Pierce pursued him before Mr Bailey stopped, left the truck and approached the officer, who initially stayed in his car and radioed for help, believing the truck driver was about to assault him.
The authority said Mr Bailey returned to the cab and was shortly after pepper-sprayed for resisting arrest.
Afterwards, Mr Bailey rang a PTS transport manager to tell him what happened.
PTS general manager Denis Wan contacted police a few days later and asked for an outline of the incident. Police sent him a summary of facts and caption summary for a charge of failing to remain stopped.
The caption summary was supposed to be made public only once Mr Bailey either pleaded guilty or was found guilty.
On August 12, Mr Wan drafted a letter inviting Mr Bailey to a disciplinary meeting. The meeting was held three days later. The truckie relayed his story before Mr Wan provided a copy of the summary of facts.
The truckie "conveyed his displeasure" PTS had the summary when he did not.
Mr Bailey broadly accepted the police version of events and agreed he "was wild" at the time of the roadside incident.
Mr Wan said he was concerned Mr Bailey had "lost control" and his behaviour could potentially bring the company into disrepute.
But authority member Michele Ryan accepted Mr Bailey felt "ambushed" when PTS produced the police documents.
"... Mr Bailey was effectively called to answer prejudicial information without any notice that the issue was of concern, or sufficient time to properly consider and form his response," Ms Ryan said.
Some 45 minutes after the meeting started, Mr Bailey was fired.
Nine months later, in Taupo District court, Mr Bailey successfully defended a charge of failing to remain stopped.
Ms Ryan said the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) investigated 14 complaints from Mr Bailey.
A total of 13 were not upheld but the IPCA found police should not have sent the caption summary to PTS. Ms Ryan understood Mr Bailey was now pursuing this with the Privacy Commissioner.
The authority said Mr Wan "genuinely endeavoured to conduct a fair process" but PTS failed to adequately clarify its concerns to Mr Bailey before sacking him.
Mr Bailey sought reimbursement of 16 weeks' wages but this was denied as he didn't provide evidence to prove he was actually applying for new jobs after his dismissal.
Ms Ryan was going to award Mr Bailey $5000 for distress, humiliation and hurt feelings but said his behaviour contributed to the situation that triggered his dismissal, so the award was cut to $1000.
Mr Bailey, who represented himself at the hearing, could not immediately be reached for comment. PTS in Palmerston North said it was seeking advice from senior management today before commenting.
Ms Ryan said police had already apologised for releasing the caption summary to Mr Bailey's employer.