Anaesthetist caught up in strip club job dispute

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 05:00 05/10/2012

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A Waikato anaesthetist has been caught in a $15,670 employment stoush through his connection to a Hamilton strip club.

Former Hush Hush doorman Ben Fatupaito was awarded $10,170 in lost pay after the Employment Relations Authority found he was unjustifiably dismissed.

His former employer, HHGC Ltd, was also ordered to pay Fatupaito $5500 in "distress compensation".

According to a just-published Employment Relations Authority decision, Fatupaito worked as a security guard at the club from August 2010 to May this year.

In March, Hush Hush was sold to Cambridge company HHGC.

At a meeting with one of the club's new owners, Martin Schuitemaker, in April, Fatupaito was told his days and hours of work were being reduced immediately, from 37.5 hours a week down to 16.5 hours.

The Companies Office lists Dean Williams as HHGC's sole director and shareholder. However, Williams told the authority he co-owned the club with Schuitemaker, who had put money into it and was intending to act as a "silent partner".

Schuitemaker is a registered anaesthetist and formerly worked for the Waikato District Health Board.

On May 1, Fatupaito arranged a meeting to clarify his work situation and alleged Schuitemaker told him he did not have a job and his services were not required.

HHGC disputed Fatupaito was dismissed and said his position was kept open.

In its findings, authority member Rachel Larmer said Fatupaito impressed as a truthful witness and "on the balance of probabilities, Mr Fatupaito was told there was no longer a job for him".

"HHGC bluntly told Mr Fatupaito he no longer had a job. That was not the actions of a fair and reasonable employer nor could a fair and reasonable employer have dismissed Mr Fatupaito in all circumstances.

"His dismissal was substantively and procedurally unjustified."

Larmer acknowledged Fatupaito's unjustified dismissal had an adverse effect on his self-esteem.

"I consider that $5500 compensation . . . is appropriate in order to compensate Mr Fatupaito for the humiliation, loss of dignity, and injury to feelings he has suffered."

Fatupaito, 45, said later that his dismissal had taken an emotional and financial toll. The father of five said it took him about two or three months to find another job during which time his family had to rely on his wife's income.

"The whole thing made me feel down because Dean [Williams] and I were really good friends and I was best man at his wedding. I got him the job at Hush Hush and when things started to go haywire I tried to contact him but he just made himself unavailable and didn't want to talk to me.

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"Instead I had to deal with Martin [Schuitemaker]."

- Waikato Times

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