Fired for eating from 'pig bin'

KATIE KENNY
Last updated 12:06 22/01/2014

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A supermarket employee fired after eating a cake from the "pig bin" has been awarded $500 but told his dismissal was justified.

A decision by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) found theft and consumption of a cake from a supermarket pig bin warranted dismissal.

In June 2012, during his morning tea break at New World Lincoln, Christchurch, Wanjar Obert Mutze took a cake that was in sealed packaging out of a refuse bin ("the pig bin") in the supermarket yard, the ERA said.

He unwrapped it, took a bite, then offered it to other staff members who laughed. One man took a bite, but later said he was unaware the cake was from the bin.

Mutze admitted his actions, saying he knew taking the cake "was not the right thing to do", but that it was meant to be a joke.

His employer was offended by Mutze's "trivialising" of the matter, and said selling food was their "livelihood", and "if people were allowed to eat rubbish, then [his] business would tank".

The following day, Mutze was asked to attend a disciplinary meeting. An investigation followed, which ended in his suspension and eventual resignation on June 15, 2012.

He claimed remedies for stress caused by the disciplinary process and suspension. He said he had felt stressed being at home instead of at work.

Mutze had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after his wife was seriously injured during the Christchurch earthquake on February 22, 2011, and he was trapped in Redcliffs New World for more than half an hour that day.

He began working as a produce manager for the supermarket in March 2011. In July that year he took two weeks off work due to stress and on his return asked to be given the lesser role of assistant manager of produce. He started in that role later that month.

The ERA, in a decision released this month, found Mutze suffered "unjustified disadvantage in his employment by being suspended" and awarded him compensation of $500.

However, the ERA found his dismissal was justified because of the "seriousness of the conduct" of taking a cake from a waste bin and eating it.

"In deciding what the outcome should be at the time Mr Mutze resigned, [the employer] said he had been weighing up, on the one hand, Mr Mutze's value to the business, because of the success he had had in raising sales in the produce department, against, on the other hand, the seriousness of the conduct of taking waste product from a waste bin and consuming it," the ERA said.

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- Fairfax Media

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