Sacked CEO's compensation slashed

MICHAEL FOREMAN
Last updated 14:05 07/03/2014

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The former chief executive of a mail company who was unjustifiably dismissed after he approved capital expenditure in excess of authorised limits has been awarded $3500 in reduced compensation.

Giles Sergant had sought reinstatement, lost remuneration of $376,000 and $50,000 compensation from his former employer, Western Mailing.

But the Employment Relations Authority declined to order Sergant's reinstatement, dismissed his claim for lost remuneration and cut his compensation award as it found Sergant was "partly the publicist and author of his own hurt and humiliation".

Sergant had been employed as the chief executive of Avondale-based Western Mailing since August 1 last year. He had previously been employed by the company as its chief executive between 1998 and 2000.

The ERA heard that within two weeks of rejoining the company Sergant had authorised capital expenditure of more than $46,000.

This was in excess of his delegated authorities which required capital expenditure greater than $5000 to be approved by Western Mailing's founder and principal shareholder Gary Gosling-Lewis, two board advisers or a full advisory board meeting.

Sergant was asked to attend a board meeting on August 14 where the capital expenditure issue was raised.

He left the meeting after telling the board if it thought it was going to "micromanage" him, "it was not going to happen".

The next day Gosling-Lewis told Sergant he was disgusted by his behaviour at the board meeting and asked him to apologise to the board.

Sergant apologised to Gosling-Lewis but he did not apologise to anyone else.

On August 18 Sergant sent Gosling-Lewis a report which contained derogatory comments about members of the Western Mailing board, employees and members of Gosling-Lewis' family.

This included a statement that the board was "incompetent and dysfunctional" and was trying to "remotely micromanage with no apparently developed strategy".

At the last in a series of meetings on September 17, Gosling-Lewis told Sergant that he was suspended on full pay due to the company's concerns over his "potentially volatile behaviour".

After leaving that meeting Sergant told other staff members he had been suspended.

Western Mailing terminated Sergant's employment on September 20. The company had discussed the issues of concern at a meeting with Sergant the previous day, during which Sergant had provided feedback.

The ERA determined Sergant was not unjustifiably disadvantaged by being suspended by Western Mailing.

However, Western Mailing did not genuinely consider Sergant's responses to his dismissal, ERA member Tania Tetitaha said.

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Tetitaha said the evidence would normally attract a modest award for hurt and humiliation of $7000 but Sergant's behaviour had been "causative and blameworthy".

"His conduct led to the disciplinary meeting, created dissent amongst Western Mailing employees and partly publicised his disciplinary matters," Tetitaha said.

Costs were reserved.

- Fairfax Media

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