Fired Harlem Shake worker reinstated

KIRSTY JOHNSTON
Last updated 09:55 14/01/2014
YouTube

Fonterra employee sacked for dancing with a shovel between his legs while doing the Harlem Shake wins his job back.

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A Fonterra employee sacked for performing the Harlem Shake at work has won his job back.

Milk factory worker Craig Flynn was fired after his bosses discovered two videos of he and six other employees re-enacting the popular dance video craze at its Takanini plant last year.

Fonterra accused Flynn of putting himself and others at risk of harm by "dancing with a shovel between his legs, hosing water where another employee was dancing, and splashing a pallet endangering himself and others".

Flynn argued his actions weren't dangerous, but simply "horseplay" and that he was unfairly dismissed.

Flynn was temporarily reinstated last year and that has now been made permanent. The fate of Flynn's colleague Henry Taufua, a Fonterra packer and robot operator who was also fired then temporarily reinstated last year, is unclear.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA), in a decision released today, defined the Harlem Shake as an "internet memo" which it said was "a short video where people perform a comedy sketch accompanied by a short excerpt from the song Harlem Shake by Baauer, an American DJ and producer".

The ERA probably meant "internet meme" - an idea, picture or video mimicked in various ways by individuals which spreads rapidly across the web.

Flynn said he and his co-workers performed the Harlem Shake while on their 9pm break. One man filmed it on his iPad then uploaded two videos to YouTube.

The clips begin with the men doing a clean-up, with Flynn spraying water on the ground. It then switches to an enthusiastic dance scene where the men use their work gear as props, and one man hangs from the ceiling.

While Fonterra said the situation was dangerous, the ERA ruled the company's claim was contradicted by the videos that show all the employees wearing hairnets or head gear, with the exception of two wearing a blue bucket and yellow bucket on their heads.

Any water sprayed by Flynn was shown to have been cleaned up before dancing took place.

The ERA also noted that prior to the video incident there was no evidence of concerns about Flynn's performance or conduct.

In a decision released today, ERA member Tania Tetiaha said it determined a fair and reasonable employer could not have concluded Flynn's conduct was misconduct justifying dismissal.

She also noted Fonterra did not follow fair process in the dismissal.

However, it refused to award costs because his behaviour was "blameworthy".

The videos remain on YouTube.

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- Fairfax Media

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