Unlawful sacking leads to $30,000 bill for firm

A Dunedin engineering firm has been stung with a bill for more than $30,000 after unlawfully sacking a worker.

Kayne Anderson began employment at Valley Crates & Engineering Ltd in February 2017 but after a year was dumped by the company after a fraught meeting with bosses in which they claimed he had wilfully harmed himself.

The case came before the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) in April but Valley Crates played little role in the process.

Company director Morgan Campbell failed to substantively respond to Mr Anderson's personal grievances and left the hearing with ERA member Peter van Keulen after saying he would not participate in the authority's proceedings.

He told the Otago Daily Times he wanted to go before a judge ''from day one'' and would appeal the ruling so an appeal could take place in the Employment Court.

The relationship between him and Mr Anderson broke down after an accident on February 7 last year.

Mr Anderson was cleaning out the drum of a concrete mixer and preparing the compressed-air tool he was going to use.

He said he removed his safety glasses because it was a hot day and they had fogged up.

When he started using the tool, a steel connector burst off the air hose and struck him in the eye.

Mr Anderson was taken to hospital where he was treated for the injury and signed off work until February 19.

But days later, he was summoned to a meeting with Mr Campbell and operations manager Michael Clarke.

It was alleged other employees saw Mr Anderson ''have a bit of a fit'', which caused the incident.

The worker denied that was the case and said Mr Campbell got ''very angry'' during the meeting about the lack of paperwork the man had from the hospital.

The pair, according to Mr Anderson, then briefly consulted and quickly dismissed him, told him to gather his tools and leave the company's business premises.

''It is very clear from the disciplinary meeting that neither Mr Campbell nor Mr Clarke considered anything Mr Anderson said, before they decided to dismiss him,'' Mr van Keulen said in his judgement released this week.

He noted, despite a suggestion other employees saw Mr Anderson acting out, there were no witness statements from them.

Valley Crates did not sufficiently investigate the matter, did not give Mr Anderson relevant information, did not genuinely consider his explanation and failed to give him the opportunity to respond before confirming dismissal, he found.

The ERA said the impact on Mr Anderson had been ''reasonably significant''.

''He changed from being an outgoing, bubbly person to being a quiet and unsociable person who did not go out and did not discuss what had happened,'' Mr van Keulen said.

Valley Crates was ordered to pay $15,000 compensation, $11,700 for lost earnings, $1949 wage arrears and $2750 for the former employee's legal costs.

rob.kidd@odt.co.nz

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