A manager who pushed and swore at a shoplifter in The Warehouse has had his claim for unjustified sacking dismissed.
Ringo Peters swooped on a young man he saw pocketing a pair of eyelash curlers at the Petone branch of the retail chain store in November 2018, according to an Employment Relations Authority decision released last week.
The team leader and loss prevention officer confronted the customer at the check-out about 8.10am after viewing the attempted theft on CCTV.
Also caught on CCTV, Peters presented the discarded eyelash curler box and told the man he "needed to pay for that too".
The customer allegedly denied knowing what Peters was talking about to which the team leader replied: "Don't lie to me you little s***, I was watching you on the CCTV camera".
According to the ERA decision, Peters reached toward the customer's jacket as the man sidestepped him and walked away after a brief exchange of words.
Peters later admitted he then grabbed the side of the man's jacket who twisted out of his grasp.
The manager positioned himself between the exit and the customer and although Peters denies pushing the man backwards, ERA member Michele Ryan said she was satisfied he did.
Another Warehouse employee then intervened, placing her arm as a barrier to prevent physical contact between the pair.
Peters stretched out his arm, wrestled some safety pins from the customer who tried again to exit but was blocked from the external doors by Peters.
The other employee again intervened until a trade manager arrived and escorted the shoplifter off the premises, where he relinquished the eyelash curlers.
Peters was summonsed to a meeting with the store manager a few days later who told the team leader he would be suspended with pay until an investigation was complete.
At a meeting on November 21, Peters agreed he "went a bit far by touching and swearing" but advised his role was "to get as much stuff back" and considered it a failure if he did not do so.
He blamed the intervening employee for emboldening the shoplifter when she told Peters not to touch or swear at him.
Peters said if it had just been left to him the offender would have returned the stock.
At a second meeting the next day the store manager said he was concerned Peters' language had escalated the situation and he no longer had trust in the team leader not to do the same thing again.
Peters apologised but the store manager dismissed him, effectively immediately over health and safety concerns and for showing no insight or understanding of the risk that he had put himself in.
Peters claimed to the ERA The Warehouse's decision to dismiss was too harsh a sanction in the circumstances, and that he was unjustifiably dismissed.
He also said he was unjustifiably disadvantaged when he was suspended without any opportunity to comment on the matter.
But Ryan said Peters was given a proper opportunity to respond to The Warehouse's concerns and his responses were genuinely considered before The Warehouse decided to dismiss, meaning minimum standards of procedural fairness were complied with.
She was also not persuaded The Warehouse failed to provide Peters with an opportunity to comment on the suspension.
As reason for his conduct, it was suggested the role of the loss prevention officer was stressful, and the actions of the customer were provocative, Ryan said.
"This explanation seems at odds with Mr Peters' initial response to The Warehouse that he acted so as to have the customer return the goods."
She said if not for the other employee's intervention there was no certainty over how the situation may have ended and that Peters' actions increased the potential for harm to both himself and his colleague.
To make matters worse Peters had attended training specifically addressing such issues, for loss prevention officers, nine days prior to the incident.
"Amongst other things, the training canvassed communication styles and other techniques to de-escalate difficult situations including how to best engage with customers suspected of theft.
"I find it was reasonable for The Warehouse to conclude Mr Peters' actions towards the customer did not comply with its policies and procedures and were a 'serious failure to observe safety requirements', and constituted serious misconduct."
Peters argued it was unfair of The Warehouse to dismiss him for a one-off event, and that he had never been subject to disciplinary action as a consequence of how he dealt with offenders.
However The Warehouse produced evidence Peters had received disciplinary warnings on two separate occasions where he had wrongly accused customers of theft.
"I am satisfied his failure to adhere to the Warehouse's apprehension procedures was deliberate and wilful," Ryan said in her conclusion.
"It follows that I must find the Warehouse's dismissal of Mr Peters was a decision that a fair and reasonable employer could make in the circumstances.
"Mr Peters' dismissal was justified. His claims are dismissed."
Costs were reserved.