'Wolf-whistling' labourer wrongly fired

MARIKA HILL
Last updated 10:24 28/03/2014

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An Auckland labourer wrongly sacked from his job for sexual harassment has won a $5000 payout for the humiliation he suffered.

Barry Simpson's employer accused him of wolf-whistling and making lewd comments at a woman, according to an Employment Relation Authority (ERA) decision.

However, Simpson argued it was a case of mistaken identity and he was actually waving at a workmate, not the woman.

In a decision released this week, the ERA found Simpson's employer, underground cable company DDS, was wrong to fire him over the incident.

The ERA ordered DDS to pay Simpson $5000 for the humiliation and distress he suffered and a further $1650 in lost wages.

DDS employed Simpson in September 2012 as labourer responsible for digging up pavements and installing fibre optic cables around Auckland.

Simpson was sitting in a work truck at traffic lights in April 2013 when he spotted colleagues in three other trucks at the same intersection.

The work mates tooted and waved at each other, Simpson said.

He noticed a woman was waiting at the same traffic lights in the far lane.

The woman's husband later rang DDS in an "irate" state over a DDS worker who wolf-whistled and made lurid comments at his wife.

DDS labourers had previously been warned against wolf-whistling at women.

Simpson was identified as the culprit and fired for road rage and inappropriate behaviour, according to the ERA decision.

However, Simpson explained it was a matter of mistaken identity in an apology letter given to his manager.

"I looked to my left and saw a lady looking at us. I think she thought we were tooting at her. I think if I have offended her in any way, then I am deeply sorry."

The ERA found DDS failed to investigate the incident or allow Simpson a chance to explain his side of the story.

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- Fairfax Media

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