Builder awarded $5000 after being told to stop being a baby

Apprentice builder Trent Williams claimed he was unjustifiably dismissed from his job at Burkhart Building.

Apprentice builder Trent Williams claimed he was unjustifiably dismissed from his job at Burkhart Building.

A builder who was told to stop being a baby by his boss has been awarded $5000 for unfair dismissal.

Apprentice builder Trent Williams claimed he was unjustifiably dismissed from his job at Hamilton firm Burkhart Building and that his employer breached its statutory obligations to provide a contract.

He applied to the Employment Relations Authority for compensation. The determination was released this month.  

In 2013, Williams was an apprentice builder in Australia when he decided to come back to New Zealand with his family.

He began working as an apprentice at Burkhart Building in March the following year for $14.50 an hour on a full-time basis.

In April, James Burkhart, the sole director of Burkhart Building, had a problem with gear falling out of his trailer.

He texted Williams about this and asked if he had shut the trailer and Williams texted back saying he must not have. 

A few days after that incident, Burkhart discovered batteries for his equipment had not been recharged.

Burkhart texted Williams saying, "When you f...ing pack up the gear make sure the batteries and chargers go back in the gun cases. I have one battery its flat." [sic]

When Williams complained about the language in the text, he was told not to take it personally, to stop being a baby and get back to work.

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Williams was on bereavement leave for the rest of that week and didn't return to work after a discussion between himself and Burkhart, in which both agreed the relationship was not going well and Williams wasn't happy in his role.

Williams claims he was disadvantaged when he received abusive texts and that he didn't have enough opportunity to respond to criticisms of his work.

Burkhart said Williams' behaviour was confrontational and angry though Williams denied this.

When Williams went to stand beside his car, Burkhart walked to the edge of the roof and told Williams he would not be paid to stand at his car and he should either start work or leave. Burkhart said he told Williams that if he left he could not expect to be paid.

Later, Burkhart apologised and told Williams he didn't want him to feel bad.

ERA member Vicki Campbell said in the ERA decision that the use of swearing was commonplace and Williams swore on two other occasions.

The evidence showed that both Burkhart and Williams used robust language in their day-to-day dealings with each other and that this type of language is common in the industry. 

She said she was satisfied that Williams accepted Burkhart's offer to end his employment without protest and gave the appearance that he was in agreement with him.

What was missing was an actual agreement by both parties for the employment relationship to end in this way and so the dismissal was unjustified.

Burkhart Building was therefore ordered to pay Williams $5000.

Costs were reserved.

 - Stuff

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