An Auckland labourer sacked after complaints he wolf-whistled
at a woman and made lurid comments has been awarded almost
$7000 for wrongful dismissal.
Barry Simpson had been employed by DDS to dig up pavements
and lay fibre-optic cable as part of the company's contract
to install broadband connections throughout Auckland.
But after six months with the company, he was suspended and
later fired over a complaint about his behaviour in one of
the company's trucks.
The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) was told an irate
husband called the company and alleged his wife had been
subjected to lurid comments and wolf-whistling at a south
Auckland intersection on April 2 last year.
The man said his wife had been in a black Holden Commodore
when she was subjected to the abuse from an employee in a
blue DDS truck on Browns Rd in Manurewa.
The ERA heard the husband was angry and had threatened to
come to the DDS site.
DDS project manager Craig Hooker concluded, from talking to
the husband and staff, that Mr Simpson and another employee
had been involved in the complaint.
He called Mr Simpson that evening and told him there had been
Mr Simpson explained he had been waving to a DDS employee in
another company truck at the intersection, not at the woman
in the black Commodore.
But his manager questioned how he knew it had been a black
Commodore, to which Mr Simpson replied that he liked that
model of car.
DDS director Jeff Ottaway called Mr Simpson into his office
the next day and suspended him from work. The labourer was
dismissed two days later.
Mr Simpson raised a personal grievance claiming he was
unjustifiably suspended and dismissed.
ERA member Eleanor Robinson agreed, noting there was no
evidence an investigation had been launched before Mr Simpson
There was also no evidence that Mr Ottaway had conveyed Mr
Simpson's explanation, or a letter apologising for any
misunderstanding, to the complainant.
"Had he done so, there is a possibility that she may have
withdrawn her complaint."
Ms Robinson said the company had preferred the complainant's
evidence over that of its employee, despite his good work and
behaviour record, and had not considered options other than
She ordered DDS to pay $1650 in lost wages and $5000 in
compensation to Mr Simpson. Costs were reserved.
- Matthew Backhouse of APNZ