Ex-flight attendant wins Facebook fight

A former Air New Zealand flight attendant who was forced to hand over her bank records and access to her Facebook page for an employment investigation has won her case against the airline.

Gina Trudy Kensington was dismissed from her job as a long haul flight attendant when she defied her manager's instructions and took domestic leave to care for her ill sister earlier this year.

At the time, Ms Kensington's sister, Vania Kensington-Morpeth, was caring for her newborn baby.

During a weekend in March, Ms Kensington, who was on leave and at the beach for the day, received a text from her sister asking if she could come over the next day as she was unwell. Mrs Morpeth's husband, Andrew, would also be away at work.

Ms Kensington then proceeded to organise leave but after contacting her manager was told she was ineligible for domestic leave.

She then contacted her union, the Flight Attendants and Related Services Association, and was told they believed she was "protected to take sick leave for the care of your sister".

Ms Kensington informed her manager she would not be coming in the following day, a Monday, and said they should contact her union representative if there were any problems.

As a result of the incident, Air NZ held disciplinary meetings with Ms Kensington and began an investigation into her conduct.

The airline said they were concerned Ms Kensington "may have falsely declared the need to look after your sister and used this reason to secure further time off".

A decision to dismiss, issued on May 10, was appealed by Ms Kensington and brought before the Employment Relations Authority.

Ms Kensington argued she was unjustifiably dismissed as her actions had not amounted to a misuse of sick leave and the disciplinary process followed by Air NZ was unfair.

Air NZ successfully applied to the authority to access Ms Kensington's bank records and Facebook page for the relevant time period.

Concerns were raised after photos of Ms Kensington at Auckland's Takapuna beach appeared online at the time she was trying to organise leave to care for her sister.

Despite this, Ms Kensington's efforts against the airline were today rewarded when the authority issued a determination in her favour.

Authority member Tania Tetitaha stated in the determination the dismissal was "not what a fair and reasonable employer could have done in all the circumstances at the time it occurred".

However, the investigation by Air NZ into the incident was "full and fair".

Further discussions between Air NZ and Ms Kensington are due to take place this month regarding costs in the case and possible reinstatement of her employment.

- Teuila Fuatai of APNZ

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