Restaurant slammed for sacking worker

Last updated 14:00 08/02/2013

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A worker at a central Auckland restaurant has been awarded more than $3000 after being made redundant then falsely accused of letting his friends dine for free.

Sean Aitkenhead complained to the Employment Relations Authority after he was sacked by Bruschetteria restaurant in August last year. He had worked at the restaurant for about three years.

Aitkenhead said he was told he would be losing his job because of the financial difficulties the restaurant, in Elliot Stables, was facing.

He said he accepted the restaurant trade was facing real problems and agreed that he "might well have simply accepted the dismissal at face value without challenge, if there had not been allegations made by Bruschetteria about his honesty".

The authority said the allegations were made by the restaurant after it told Aitkenhead his position would be disestablished.

"The authority is absolutely satisfied that these were not raised properly. Mr Aitkenhead was given no opportunity to deal with these allegations fair and square.''

The authority said the allegations were of the nature of friends being entertained in the restaurant at no charge.

"For the record, Mr Aitkenhead denied on oath any impropriety and denied having had any opportunity to respond to all but one of these allegations.

"The authority is satisfied that the evidence available does not suggest any impropriety at all."

The authority said that it emerged during its investigation that the restaurant was in fact using the dishonesty allegations as a "shield" to Aitkenhead's bid to be reimbursed for holiday pay he was owed.  

"One allegation, apparently made almost baldly, was that if he persevered with the holiday pay claim, the employer would take the dishonesty allegations to the police,'' the authority said.

The authority said that threat was "grossly improper" and said that by behaving the way it had, the restaurant was "responsible for an unjustified action or series of actions against Mr Aitkenhead causing him disadvantage".

It awarded Aitkenhead $750 compensation for being made redundant in a "deficient" manner, $750 for the unjustified allegations of dishonesty and $1635.86 in outstanding holiday pay.

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