'I am going': $8000 awarded for dismissal

JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2012

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A Christchurch retail manager who told her employer: "F..k you, I am going", has been awarded $8000 for unjustifiable dismissal.

Koren Sullivan, a former manager at T&T Childrenswear at Eastgate Mall, took her employer to the Employment Relations Authority, claiming she had been unjustifiably dismissed in February 2010 after arguing with her retail supervisor over roster changes.

The authority's written findings state that Sullivan's employer had "seized the opportunity" to be rid of Sullivan after a "troubled" employment relationship, including four warnings the employer says it issued for Sullivan's abusive conduct and quality of work.

The problems came to a head when Sullivan and her retail supervisor got into a heated argument over roster changes two days before her dismissal.

According to Sullivan, she said she was not well and had reacted badly when approached by her supervisor over the rosters.

"Ms Martin was negative in the way that she approached me, being abrupt. I accept I threw the rosters on the floor. I said I was sick and in my frustration I said: `F..k you, I am going!' I picked up my bag and left. I left crying and upset."

Her supervisor claimed Sullivan had told her to get someone else to do the "f....n' job, right here right now" – which she took as her resignation, which was accepted, the report said.

"Koren immediately raised her voice and started to yell at me. She proceeded to tell me that she didn't have to put up with this `s..t' anymore and that she would start looking for another job today. I remained calm even though I felt physically threatened by Koren and explained that it was entirely up to her."

In subsequent conversations between Sullivan and her employer, Sullivan said she had not resigned.

"I said to him (Darrin Johannink – the company owner) that there had been a misunderstanding. I told him that I had not resigned and that I was not intending to resign. I told him that I needed the job but I had been sick that day."

Sullivan did not show up for work the following day, with her employer denying Sullivan's claims she had been granted a sick day.

The employer took her absence as confirmation of her resignation, prepared her final pay and advertised the job.

The authority found "some substance" in the company's assertions of Sullivan's "inappropriate behaviour over a considerable period of time".

But the authority concluded that the employer should have attempted to confirm whether Sullivan had abandoned her employment before taking action.

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"There was ... no raising of concerns, no discussion or real attempt to ascertain Ms Sullivan's views about what had occurred and therefore no consideration of those views."

The authority granted her $5053 in compensation for loss of income, and $3000 for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.

However, the authority did not support Sullivan's claims for compensation for stress.

There was little evidence to support this, the authority said, and a medical certificate showed Sullivan suffered from anxiety and depression "well before these events, which requires medication."

- The Press

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