Dairy couple's claim not upheld

A couple's claim to the Employment Relations Authority of constructive dismissal has failed, with the authority saying the circumstances did not stack up.

David Pillidge had worked as a milker for sharemilkers Paul and Leanne Byrne on their Glenavy farm north of Oamaru from September 2007. His partner, Vanya Young, worked as a milker from December 2007.

They resigned on November 13, 2009 in circumstances they say amounted to constructive dismissal, claiming Mr Byrne nit-picked and bullied them.

However, Mr Byrne claimed there were small issues around the couple's work practices which he spoke to or instructed them about.

There were no notes made of the issues and the alleged nit-picking or bullying was not witnessed by other employees.

On the day the couple resigned, the issues appear to have come to a head.

In affidavits, the couple claim Mr Byrne yelled at Ms Young about hitting the cows with her hand and later that morning, he accused both of them of causing the cows to pass excessive excrement by agitating them.

They both say Mr Byrne continued picking on Ms Young until she left the milking shed in tears.

She claims Mr Byrne followed her out to her car and told her to go back and milk the cows. She refused and he told her she was "full of s ... " before returning to the milking shed.

In his evidence, Mr Byrne said when he spoke to her about the issues she got upset and angry, yelled at him then left the shed.

He said he did not follow her out immediately but waited until his son arrived to help with the milking.

He claimed he went outside with the intention to calm things down but instead was further abused by Ms Young.

In Mr Pillidge's evidence, he said Mr Byrne asked him to go outside and check on Ms Young.

The couple then left. Ms Young called Mr Byrne later that afternoon to tell him neither of them would be returning to work.

"Mr Byrne, in his evidence, might be understating his tone but he did not do anything at the time to warrant the strong reaction he got from Ms Young.

She regarded the instructions as nit-picking or similar but Mr Byrne was entitled to give such instructions," Employment Relations Authority member Philip Cheyne said in a report released yesterday.

Mr Cheyne also noted there was evidence from the couple of earlier occasions when they told Mr Byrne if he did not start treating them better, they would take him to court.

Mr Cheyne found that "Mr Pillidge and Ms Young had resigned but not in circumstances supporting a finding that they were constructively dismissed. Their personal grievance claims do not succeed".

Costs were reserved.


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