Socialising postal worker wins carpark case
A postal worker disciplined for spending five hours socialising in the office carpark has been awarded "distress compensation" after a court found he was treated unfairly.
New Zealand Post employee Peter Milne was slapped with a final written warning when bosses discovered an empty box of bourbon and cola near its Auckland mail centre and investigated several employees last year, the Employment Relations Authority was told.
The workers had been in the carpark next to the NZ Post building after their night shift, from about 5am to about 10am on August 18. Most of the seven were just talking and laughing, with only one person drinking, they said.
Although Milne had not consumed any alcohol, he was told socialising in the carpark had potentially brought NZ Post into disrepute, the ERA was told.
The company said his behaviour amounted to "serious misconduct" and issued the warning - a first in four years of exemplary behaviour.
It meant that any further disciplinary issues would have cost Milne his job. With that in mind, he took his case to the ERA alleging unjustifiable disadvantage and claiming personal grievance.
In issuing its judgement today, the authority found that NZ Post had no evidence that Milne or those he was socialising with had conducted themselves in a disorderly manner.
"They had not engaged in any loud, obnoxious or disruptive behaviour," the ERA said.
There were no complaints or concerns raised by NZ Post employees, or members of the public or other businesses in the area.
The ERA said it did not accept that any passers-by who saw the seven employees in the car park could be deterred from using NZ Post's services because of concern that its employees were engaging in unprofessional or irresponsible activities.
"I doubt whether any of the passers-by gave a second thought to seeing people standing and talking in the car park," the judgement read.
The authority found the warning was unjustified and awarded Milne a clean disciplinary record, plus $500 for hurt feelings.
New Zealand Post will also have to pay his costs.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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