Fish worker firing fair: ERA

Harbour Fish’s shop in St Andrew St, Dunedin. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Harbour Fish’s shop in St Andrew St, Dunedin. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
A Dunedin fishmonger has won a legal battle after one of its former employees, who misused a fuel card, claimed he was unjustifiably dismissed.

Anthony Henry was sacked from his job as a boat-unloading supervisor at Harbour Fish Ltd after it was alleged he twice misused a company fuel card.

Mr Henry took Harbour Fish to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), saying his dismissal was unjustified and he claimed lost wages, compensation for hurt, humiliation and injury to feelings.

Part of Mr Henry’s duties at Harbour Fish included using his private car to pick up and deliver goods, which was agreed to at a Christmas function in 2018.

Part of that agreement meant Mr Henry could use a company fuel card for up to $100 a week to compensate for the petrol used.

After his card expired in April 2019, Mr Henry, on May 3, 2019, was told he could get the fuel card from another vehicle.

He either took the fuel card then or returned to the workplace on May 5, a Sunday, and took it at that time.

Mr Henry used the card to buy fuel that day , and again on May 10, when he was on sick leave without pay.

In Mr Henry’s version of events, he put $40 in his car on May 10, 2019, because he was on unpaid sick leave and could not afford to put petrol in his car and claimed the agreement was "loose and flexible" as to allow such additional fuel purchases.

Harbour Fish viewed this as "dishonest and serious misconduct".

Two meetings, one with legal representatives on both sides, were held with Harbour Fish and Mr Henry, where he was told of a proposal to dismiss him.

In May 2019, Harbour Fish’s lawyer sent Mr Henry a letter confirming its decision to dismiss him.

In August of that year, Mr Henry’s solicitor raised a personal grievance claiming he was unjustifiably dismissed.

Harbour Fish denied his claims and argued his dismissal was justified.

The matter was not settled by mediation and it was sent to the ERA for investigation.

In the decision, ERA chief Andrew Dallas said Harbour Fish had carried out a "fair and adequate" employment investigation which had yielded a proper basis to justify Mr Henry’s dismissal.

Mr Dallas said there were inconsistencies in Mr Henry’s evidence, between what he said at the disciplinary meetings, in his witness statement and at the ERA’s investigation meeting, which could not be reconciled.

A fair and reasonable employer could have concluded Mr Henry’s actions amounted to misconduct that was so serious to "deeply impair" or "destroy trust and confidence" that it justified dismissal.

"Consequently, I find that the decision to dismiss Mr Henry was one a fair and reasonable employer could have reached in all the circumstances at the time," Mr Dallas said.