A former Taupō bar and restaurant staff member has been awarded more than $6000 in lost wages, compensation and legal costs after she was unfairly dismissed.
Tina Watson sought redress from the Employment Relations Authority after she was fired from her job with the Bay Holdings Limited (BHL) trading as The Bay Bar & Brasserie in Taupō on February 11, 2021, amid allegations of serious misconduct.
This included accusations that Watson had been illegally drinking on the job, disclosed financial details about the business to colleagues, and also discussed workplace gossip with customers and the company's financial adviser.
The authority's May 3 written decision also revealed that Watson was accused of drinking during a shift and not paying her bar tab without the owners' consent.
Watson was employed as a front-of-house staff member from October 15, 2020, working about 20 hours per week.
She told the authority she was unjustifiably dismissed and disadvantaged by a lack of formal process and a breach of good faith during her termination on February 11, 2021.
Watson said her boss yelled at her and levelled the accusations at her in front of other staff before telling her to collect her belongings and leave immediately.
She was not given an opportunity to respond to the allegations and the next day received a letter from BHL which confirmed her dismissal without notice for alleged "serious misconduct".
BHL denied the accusation and claimed that the company had lost all trust and confidence in Watson as an employee.
The authority said BHL's joint director told the ERA that the business was sold at a loss in September 2021 and declined to attend the investigation meeting.
On November 30, 2020, BHL's joint director posted a message on the BHL's staff Facebook page stating drinking on the job or before staff started their shift was illegal.
Watson confirmed she was aware of the notification and the policy.
She told the authority that she queried the notification with her boss and was told that this notification did not apply to her.
Watson said she had frequently worked a shift with her boss and they regularly had alcoholic drinks before and during work.
She also said while she sometimes reported for work under the influence of alcohol, this issue was not raised with her by her boss and did not receive any formal warnings.
In December 2020, as suggested by her boss, Watson began a Licence Controller Qualification (LCQ) course with the Taupō District Licensing Committee.
She told the authority she stopped drinking before and during her shifts once she received her manager's qualification certificate on February 15, 2021.
Watson denied she had been drinking before her shift on February 11 but she may have had a few drinks the previous night.
She also denied sharing company financial details and said she did not pay the bar tab mentioned in the BHL letter because she felt "aggrieved" about how BHL had treated her.
In relation to the other reasons given for her dismissal, Watson said there was no evidence presented by the BHL to confirm that she had acted inappropriately.
Authority member Eleanor Robinson agreed and ruled in Watson's favour.
"In all the circumstances I find dismissing Ms Watson was not a decision a fair and reasonable employer could have taken.
"I have found that BHL unjustifiably dismissed Ms Watson and did not act in good faith by carrying out a fair and reasonable procedure..."
"I find that without firm evidence there is no substantive justification for her dismissal."
The authority ordered BHL to pay Watson $840 (gross) in lost wages, and another $840 (gross) with respect to the two weeks' notice period she was not given.
Watson was also awarded $4000 compensation for the hurt and humiliation suffered from being dismissed within the hearing of other employees, $2250 in legal costs and the $71.56 ERA filing fee.
The authority also ordered BHL to pay a $500 penalty to the authority for its failure to act in good faith during the disciplinary process.