Deidre Isaacs contemplates the award of $12,000 for unfair
dismissal to her late diabetic father. Pictured with her
are children Benjamin (9 weeks) and Samantha (2).
The family of a diabetic fruit and vegetable company
worker wrongly fired after miscounting limes and grapefruit and
falling asleep on his forklift say the stress of losing his job
contributed to his death seven months later.
Christchurch man Robert Graham (57) died two months before
being awarded $12,000 for unfair dismissal by the Employment
Relations Authority (ERA) after it found his former employer,
Turners & Growers, acted unfairly.
The amount, for lost wages and compensation, will go to Mr
Graham's estate following his death last October.
Mr Graham's daughter, Deidre Isaacs, of Dunedin, said the
decision was bittersweet because the process took its toll on
''It was an awful way to go out and I think the stress
definitely didn't help at the end. I just think it was really
unfortunate that he had to go through that,'' she said.
Her father's job ''was his life'' and in the months after his
dismissal Mrs Isaacs watched his health and mood decline.
''I found that really heartbreaking.''
The miscounting of the fruit was simply a mistake and his
falling asleep on the forklift was caused by his diabetes, she
Mr Graham joined the company in 2002. His duties included
unloading vegetable trucks, data entry and driving a
According to an ERA finding, he had no disciplinary issues
until February 2011, when he received a written warning for
signing off a pallet of limes, later found to be six boxes
short. Nine months later, he got a final warning for ''the
miscounting of grapefruit''. Then, last March, Mr Graham was
fired after twice being caught sleeping on his parked
An employee who found him asleep said Mr Graham told him ''he
just dozed off''.
''Shortly afterwards he approached me, asked me if he could
go home as his diabetes was playing up and he felt sick and
The second time Mr Graham was found asleep, it took some time
to wake him and he looked ''terrible'', another worker said.
During a disciplinary meeting, Mr Graham said he could not
remember sleeping and was just resting on the forklift but
acknowledged his diabetes was affecting him.
The company decided to send him to a specialist, who
concluded Mr Graham's sleep problems were no barrier to the
safe performance of his duties.
However, he was advised by his employer sleeping at work was
deemed serious misconduct and he was dismissed.
The ERA concluded that was unfair and noted Mr Graham's
sacking caused him to have a tearful ''meltdown'' because his
age and health meant he had few other work options.
''Mr Graham had significant health issues but he had managed
them in undertaking his role,'' ERA member Helen Doyle said.
No-one from Turners & Growers was available to comment.
The company has been ordered to pay the $12,000 to Mr