A "normally staunch woman" became depressed, sick and stressed after she was bullied and undermined while working for the Rotorua Hockey Association, the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has found.
The ERA has ordered the Rotorua Hockey Association (RHA) to pay a former employee $20,000 compensation for unjustified constructive dismissal.
In a determination dated February 22, ERA member Jenni-Maree Trotman stated the woman was hired for a 12-month period, starting October 10, 2016.
The RHA is a not for profit sports organisation, then governed by a management committee of nine volunteers.
Prior to her appointment, the woman had been involved with Rotorua hockey for many years in a number of capacities.
"During this period she had gotten offside with some RHA members," the judgment stated.
Three of the committee members at the time opposed the woman's appointment but were outvoted.
From the outset, these members disagreed with her ideas and made negative comments about her, the ERA said. When a new chairperson was elected in December 2016, two of the members voiced concerns to her about the woman, which were accepted unchallenged.
Between January 11 and March 7, 2017, the employee had four meetings with the chairperson and deputy chairperson during which she outlined her concerns about being undermined, not being allowed to do her job, being "alienated...isolated and ignored" and feeling stressed, bullied and unsafe.
During this time she was also locked out of the office on the instructions of the chairperson for 11 days, for which she later received a letter of apology - but no other steps were taken to address her concerns.
In April the employee's lawyer wrote to the RHA raising a personal grievance. A committee meeting was held three days later but the grievances were not addressed. Instead the committee focused on performance issues and set the woman further extensive tasks.
She then went on stress leave, with her lawyer advising the RHA her work environment was "too oppressive to return to at this point".
In June 2017, following an unsuccessful mediation, the woman resigned from the RHA.
In its judgment, the ERA found three committee members had personal issues with the woman even before her employment and when she was hired, they "followed a course of conduct which led to her feeling bullied, alienated, unsupported and ultimately resulting in her suffering stress and anxiety".
"They opposed her ideas, undermined her in her role ... and challenged her authority in front of others."
It found the employee had "clearly and unambiguously" raised her concerns with the RHA and the RHA failed to investigated or take any steps to address them.
Her resignation was caused by the RHA breaching its duties to provide a safe workplace, the judgment said.
The ERA noted Rotorua hockey had always been a "safe haven" for the woman.
When the difficulties arose in her work she became sick, suffered body rashes and couldn't sleep.
"She loved being at the hockey grounds but could no longer stand to go there."
Family members had described her as a "normally staunch woman" but they had had to remove her from her home for about six weeks for her well-being and had changed work commitments to help with the care of her children. They said she had still not fully recovered from the stress.
The ERA concluded the employee suffered humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.
RHA was ordered to pay her $20,000 within 28 days and also resolve the issue of lost wages with her.
"The fact that the RHA is a not for profit sports organisation does not relieve it of the duties and obligations under the [Employment Relations] Act."