Winz worker fired over client threats

MARIKA HILL
Last updated 05:00 23/10/2012

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A former Work and Income manager behaved so badly an Auckland judge agreed she should have been sacked, despite her bosses failing to follow correct procedures to fire her.

Jane Drader lost her job at the Winz Kerikeri office in March 2011 after she accessed confidential files by looking up a client's phone number and threatening the woman, causing the client to flee her home.

The threat followed a scuffle a few days earlier at a restaurant where Drader alleged the client bottled her in the head.

In a decision released this month, Employment Court Judge Barry Travis found Winz failed to follow correct disciplinary procedures.

However, Judge Travis said Drader's bad behaviour was "so substantial" that compensation was not warranted, in spite of "substantive failures" in her dismissal process.

The failures included managers not taking notes at an important disciplinary meeting after the incident, nor was Drader given details of the client's version of events.

Drader, who had worked at the WINZ office in Kerikeri for 16 years, had appealed an Employment Relations Authority decision in March that found her dismissal was justified.

The incident arose when a client approached Drader at the Northland WINZ office with a childcare subsidy query on February 3, 2011.

Drader was unable to help the client and referred her on to another Ministry of Social Development staff member.

The following evening Drader was out for dinner with friends when the client allegedly bottled her.

"I don't know the blood that was coming out of my head, it wasn't dripping, it was just pouring out of my head, like it was everywhere,"

Drader recounted to the Employment Relations Authority.

Both women were injured in the fight.

Drader admitted phoning the client on the Monday and saying: "You've let the dogs out now, you'd better watch out," the authority reported.
The client later told the authority she had moved out of her home with her children, and avoided both the Winz office and business district of Kerikeri.

Drader admitted she had accessed confidential client records without authorisation for her own personal use, and had called the client and made threats.

The Ministry of Social Development dismissed Drader on the grounds of serious misconduct.

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