A roofer who was accused by his boss of "stealing petrol for meth" has been awarded $8000 in unpaid wages.
But despite the Employment Relations Authority also finding the roofer was unjustifiably dismissed it didn't award damages - concluding it was "probable" the petrol was stolen.
The accusation was leveled at the roofer in December 2018 after his employer found irregular amounts of money charged to the company petrol card, and at odd hours.
During a phone call, the boss asked:
Are you stealing my petrol, whose cars are you filling and are you selling my petrol for meth?
In the office the next day the boss was not satisfied with the roofer's explanation of excessive driving and other employees using his card.
He was told "you haven't given me an answer and have to go home and won't
be working (here)".
A month earlier, a pipe used for smoking methamphetamine had been found in the glove box of the company car.
At the time the roofer said the meth pipe had been left there by a "forgetful friend of his brother's".
He denied stealing petrol.
He took his boss to the Employment Relations Authority, claiming he was unjustifiedly dismissed and was owed unpaid wages.
During its investigation, the ERA found the roofer's boss was justified in thinking his employee had stolen petrol.
There were a number of substantial purchases of petrol at different locations an hour apart on a number of occasions.
One of the purchases was made at 2am near Miramar.
The roofer initially said he was collecting someone from Wellington Airport but when he was told this could not have been the case because of airport curfews, he instead said he was "taking in the views at Moa Point".
The ERA said the story had "dented his credibility and lead to a conclusion the
employer's evidence should be preferred to his".
The ERA found the 500km the car would have needed to travel to use the petrol purchased would be "unimaginable, especially if he had been stopping to perform work functions as he says he was".
Despite the situation, the ERA found the man was unjustifiably dismissed as he was not allowed adequate opportunity to explain the discrepancies or have any explanation properly considered.
Despite the unjustified dismissal, the roofer had no claim to any compensation because the behaviour that lead to the dismissal was considered: "misconduct so egregious that no remedy should be given".
It was agreed the roofer was not paid for the last eight days worked. He also had 224 hours of outstanding leave, totaling $8,030.76.
The ERA stated that irrespective of whether or not the roofer stole from the company, withholding pay is indefensible.
"Money can only be removed from wages due with the employees' written agreement or via some form of judicial intervention."
The roofer was granted name suppression for two reasons.
Firstly because the conclusion he stole money was made by a balance of probability and not to the criminal standard.
The second reason was that criminal proceedings for the alleged stolen petrol remain a possibility.
"It would be inappropriate the outcome here influence that deliberation should it proceed," the ERA said.