Daughter upset at treatment

Deidre Isaacs contemplates the award of $12,000 for unfair dismissal to her late diabetic father....
Deidre Isaacs contemplates the award of $12,000 for unfair dismissal to her late diabetic father. Pictured with her are children Benjamin (9 weeks) and Samantha (2).
The family of a diabetic fruit and vegetable company worker wrongly fired after miscounting limes and grapefruit and falling asleep on his forklift say the stress of losing his job contributed to his death seven months later.

Christchurch man Robert Graham (57) died two months before being awarded $12,000 for unfair dismissal by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) after it found his former employer, Turners & Growers, acted unfairly.

The amount, for lost wages and compensation, will go to Mr Graham's estate following his death last October.

Mr Graham's daughter, Deidre Isaacs, of Dunedin, said the decision was bittersweet because the process took its toll on her father.

''It was an awful way to go out and I think the stress definitely didn't help at the end. I just think it was really unfortunate that he had to go through that,'' she said.

Her father's job ''was his life'' and in the months after his dismissal Mrs Isaacs watched his health and mood decline.

''I found that really heartbreaking.''

Robert Graham.
Robert Graham.
The miscounting of the fruit was simply a mistake and his falling asleep on the forklift was caused by his diabetes, she said.

Mr Graham joined the company in 2002. His duties included unloading vegetable trucks, data entry and driving a forklift.

According to an ERA finding, he had no disciplinary issues until February 2011, when he received a written warning for signing off a pallet of limes, later found to be six boxes short. Nine months later, he got a final warning for ''the miscounting of grapefruit''. Then, last March, Mr Graham was fired after twice being caught sleeping on his parked forklift.

An employee who found him asleep said Mr Graham told him ''he just dozed off''.

''Shortly afterwards he approached me, asked me if he could go home as his diabetes was playing up and he felt sick and tired''.

The second time Mr Graham was found asleep, it took some time to wake him and he looked ''terrible'', another worker said.

During a disciplinary meeting, Mr Graham said he could not remember sleeping and was just resting on the forklift but acknowledged his diabetes was affecting him.

The company decided to send him to a specialist, who concluded Mr Graham's sleep problems were no barrier to the safe performance of his duties.

However, he was advised by his employer sleeping at work was deemed serious misconduct and he was dismissed.

The ERA concluded that was unfair and noted Mr Graham's sacking caused him to have a tearful ''meltdown'' because his age and health meant he had few other work options.

''Mr Graham had significant health issues but he had managed them in undertaking his role,'' ERA member Helen Doyle said.

No-one from Turners & Growers was available to comment. The company has been ordered to pay the $12,000 to Mr Graham's estate.

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