Double whammy for plumbing firm

SHABNAM DASTGHEIB
Last updated 12:01 14/03/2014

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A general manager who was involved in the unjustified dismissal of one of his workers was unjustifiably dismissed a few months later from the same company.

The two separate decisions from the Employment Relations Authority have ordered Auckland-based plumbing supplier SPK Industries to pay almost $50,000 in compensation.

On August 26, 2013, employee Sam Puleiku was told he needed to meet general manager Mark George after lunch. Though Puleiku was given no advance warning that his employment could be in jeopardy, he was told at the meeting his trial period at the company was over and he would not be needed anymore.

ERA member Rachel Larmer found Puleiku's contract did not contain a trial-period provision, something company director Liangren Li still disputes.

Puleiku's dismissal was unjustified because SPK Industries' actions were not "what a fair and reasonable employer could have done", Larmer said.

The ERA ordered the business to pay Puleiku $6950 in lost wages and $5000 in compensation for humiliation and loss of dignity, as well as hundreds of dollars in legal fees.

At the same company, George, the general manager who had dismissed Puleiku in August, was dismissed unjustifiably in October.

George was employed as a general manager at SPK Industries on August 12, 2013.

At a meeting with Li on October 17, he was told he was unsuitable for the position but could be given work as a contractor instead.

Larmer said in her decision that George was never subject to performance management or monitoring process before his dismissal and was not given any warnings.

As with Puleiku's dismissal, George was not given any notice of the potential outcome of the meeting and was not advised of his rights.

Larmer found that a fair and reasonable employer would not have dismissed George under these circumstances and so his dismissal was unjustified.

George had been forced to move his family to accept a job in to Invercargill this month.

After his dismissal he had fallen behind on his mortgage and had received family help.

Larmer said his reputation in the plumbing industry had suffered.

SPK Industries has been ordered to pay George $10,000 for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.

In addition, George's legal fees will be covered as well as $26,250 in 13 weeks of lost wages.

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- Fairfax Media

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