A Rotorua mechanic has been awarded $15,000 for humiliation, loss of dignity and hurt feelings after being forced to resign for taking sick leave.
David Bangs was unjustifiably dismissed by Sue Johnstone of Grant Johnstone Nissan Suzuki in August last year because she deemed he was taking too much sick leave for himself and to care for his sick family, the Employment Relations Authority has ruled.
Mr Bangs, who was employed in September 2015, alleged Mrs Johnstone told him he had to resign or agree not to take any more time off work.
He had taken 30 days' sick leave or domestic leave out of a total of 230 work days. The leave was to care for his wife, who suffered a medical condition and his three children aged under 7. He also had sick leave for himself.
Mr Bangs told the authority Mrs Johnstone pointed out if he was dismissed, he wouldn't get a reference and his reputation would be tarnished. As a result, his resignation letter said "as per your [Mrs Johnstone's] request".
Authority member Rachel Larmer ruled Mr Bangs took sick leave to look after his family in circumstances where no one else was available to care for them.
It was ruled Mr Bangs informed his employer on each occasion, was open about it and shared medical information.
Mrs Johnstone told the authority other than his sick leave, Mr Bangs was a good employee and performed to the required standard.
The decision said Mrs Johnstone had given Mr Bangs two previous written warnings, one when he as well as his mother were in ICU and another when he called in sick himself, but then went to work at Mrs Johnstone's request - despite legitimately being ill.
Mrs Larmer ruled Mr Bangs' distress was significantly increased by Mrs Johnstone turning up unannounced at his home on August 12, 2016, after he took sick leave to look after a sick child.
He had resigned on August 2, but was working out his three-week notice period.
Ms Larmer said the visit appeared to be an attempt to "catch him out" because Mrs Johnstone asked where his wife was, why she was not looking after their child and asked to see the child herself.
Ms Larmer said another aggravating factor was Mr Bangs' manager called Mrs Bangs' work on August 16 to check she was there when Mr Bangs had to leave early to pick up a sick child.
Mrs Bangs was surprised to find Mrs Johnstone on the phone, who then quizzed her about her health, her children's health and why she could not have left work instead of her husband.
Mr Bangs said his dismissal caused him to lose his passion for being a mechanic which was something he had been passionate about since he was a teenager.
In addition to the $15,000, the authority ruled the parties had to agree to the amount of lost income Mr Bangs had suffered since leaving the dealership. Those details had not yet been made public.
The Rotorua Daily Post attempted to contact Mrs Johnstone. A woman called Sue answered the phone but when asked didn't confirm whether she was Sue Johnstone. The woman didn't respond to requests for comment.
Mr Bangs did not want to comment but his wife said both sides of the story were heard and she and her husband agreed with the decision.
- Rotorua Daily Post