Prison worker's grievance fails

A prison worker who put intimate details online about a relationship with his co-worker will not get his job back.

The man, referred to as Mr X, sought reinstatement of his position in his personal grievance case against the Department of Corrections.

The case was heard in Dunedin earlier this year.

Employment Relations Authority member David Appleton's written finding was released this month.

Mr X worked for the department since 1999 with an ''unblemished record''. He held a senior role in a supervisory capacity.

Mr X was in a relationship with his co-worker, Ms Y, when he started a relationship with another co-worker, referred to as Ms Z by the court.

In December 2013, Ms Y's relationship with Mr X ended after she discovered him and in bed with Ms Z.

During 2014, Mr X's relationship with Ms Z became difficult, and later that year, she wanted to end it.

''This hit Mr X very badly,'' the finding says.

He started to contact her repeatedly. One evening he called 18 times and texted 28 times, making her feel ''insecure and frightened''.

''Ms Z said that she was so concerned by Mr X's behaviour that she asked for her name to be changed at the hotel that she was staying at in Invercargill and for the hotel reception not to put any calls through to her room,'' the finding says.

A colleague of the pair told a senior manager, Jack Harrison, who spoke to Mr X, who promised to modify his behaviour.

However the harassment continued.

The police took a ''distressed'' Mr X to the emergency psychiatric service for assessment.

He was served a trespass notice to stop him visiting Ms Z's property, but he continued to call, text and email.

He threatened to tell their manager details of a sexually transmitted infection and that the pair engaged in sexual bondage.

He posted material on Facebook about their relationship, and uploaded photos.

He was in and out of a psychiatric hospital ward voluntarily a few times, and was eventually detained under the Mental Health Act for 19 days.

Mr X was later cleared to return to work by his psychiatrist.

The department investigated Ms Z's complaint about Mr X, and the outcome was a recommendation of summary dismissal.

Mr X and the Public Service Association argued the preliminary decision was out of step with the treatment of other staff.

They pointed to four examples, including a staff member who was allowed to go on an international secondment despite having bullied a female staff member after she ended their relationship.

The department's response was that the ''employment landscape'' changed after the case of former staff member Edward Livingstone, who murdered his two children in January 2014.

''[The department's] evidence is that, as a result of the Livingstone case, there was now a greater scrutiny of decisions, as some of the warning signs had not been spotted at site level with respect to Mr Livingstone, who had not been dismissed for a breach of protection orders preceding the murder/suicide.''

Mr Appleton's finding said the department's decision was fair as its trust in Mr X was ''destroyed'' by his actions.

Mr Appleton said Mr X's argument that he had only about 50 Facebook friends was ''either disingenuous or naive''.

Mr X's personal grievance claim was dismissed.

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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