Garden centre dismissal amid shouting match

IAN STEWARD
Last updated 13:02 18/07/2013

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The peaceful, genteel world of a Remuera garden centre erupted into staff screaming at each other and a saleswoman's expletive-ridden dismissal.

An Employment Relations Authority decision released today describes the acrimonious dismissal of Louise Reid from Palmers Garden World Remuera on July 8, 2012.

Reid, a horticulturist and part-time salesperson, ran foul of management after she recommended a competitor to a customer for whom she was undertaking private gardening work.

Reid was called into the office at Palmers where owner Delma Harrison discussed the problem with her.  

Reid's account was that there was talk of her teaching the staff at Palmers about lawns but Harrison said to her: "Well you won't be doing that. You are fired so f... off and you have stolen from your work mates."

The worker took off her staff radio and threw it down and a shouting match ensued as she walked through the garden centre.

Reid said she was telling co-workers she had been fired and called out: "I will see you guys later when I come into the shop."

Harrison, at the information counter, yelled back "you are fired so f... off and you stole from us and you won't be back. I'm taking out a trespass order against you."

Harrison's version was that Reid had told her she had recommended a competitor because "your landscaping is crap".

Harrison said Reid created a "scene" in the shop and "proceeded to run and cuddle all the staff on duty yelling, 'I've been fired'". 

Other staff testified they did not hear anything from Harrison.

Harrison argued that Reid had recognised she had "crossed the line" and left the job of her own volition to avoid the indignity of disciplinary proceedings.

This was contradicted, however, by an email Harrison sent to the owner of another Palmers Garden Centre in which she offered some "confidential advice".

"Louise Rees [sic] may apply, or already has applied, for a position at your new store. She is an absolute untrustworthy individual and I have just terminated her employment," Harrison wrote.

Employment Relations Authority member Kenneth Anderson ruled that Reid was dismissed unfairly.

She was not given notice of the employment meeting, she was not given a reasonable opportunity to respond to the allegations, and she was not informed her job was in jeopardy and that she could have a representative or supporter present.

Anderson awarded $7748 in lost wages and $7000 for compensation for hurt and humiliation.

She reduced the award by 40 per cent, however, because she concluded that Reid contributed to the circumstances by recommending a competitor to the client and by being "aggressive and unco-operative" when it came to a head.

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Harrison was ordered to pay Reid $8889.

- Fairfax Media

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