Fired for being too drunk to work

KATIE KENNY
Last updated 12:25 21/05/2014

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An employee who was sacked after giving short notice of being unfit to work has won his case with the Employment Relations Authority.

The ERA today published a decision which found Turei Peters was "unjustifiably dismissed" from his job at Bay Packers fish processing facility in Tauranga, after he took the day off because he had been drunk.

Shortly before the 2012 Christmas period, the busiest time of the year for Bay Packers, general manager Steven Meredith told staff that some employees were taking advantage of the relaxed work environment. He reiterated employment agreements.

Staff needed to advise before their shift if they were unable to attend work that day, via either a text or voice message. Failure to do so would result in a disciplinary warning, Meredith said.

If an employee's reason for absence was considered unjustified, the disciplinary process would be followed. Peters said he recalled the meeting, "but not clearly".

Peters said domestic issues had left him stressed on Boxing Day, and at noon he started drinking. He continued drinking until 3am, even though he was due to start work at 5am.

About 4am, realising he would be too drunk to drive or attend work, he sent a text message to his supervisor: "Apologies ray 2 crook to mke it in. Turei."

The following day, December 28, Peters had not heard from his supervisor and attended work at the usual time.

He was called in to explain his absence later that morning.

Meredith met Peters for a disciplinary meeting and showed him an employee form, which stated dismissal for "serious misconduct" required no warning.

After some confusion, Peters signed the form. The company dismissed him for his actions, also taking into consideration that this was not the first time Peters had been too intoxicated to attend work.

However, ERA member Eleanor Robinson found Bay Packers did not act in a "substantively and procedurally fair" manner with Peters, in that he did not have enough time to prepare for the disciplinary meeting.

Peters had an otherwise clear disciplinary record, and the company should have taken into account that he had acted responsibly by not attempting to attend work in an unfit state, she said.

However, as Peters was "100 per cent" responsible for his actions, he did not qualify for remedies, only reimbursement for wages - a sum of $8528. Costs were reserved.

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