Father fined $17k for sacking son

Last updated 09:14 22/08/2014

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A father and son falling out in their family business has led to the son being awarded nearly $17,000 for being unjustifiably dismissed.

Nathan McDermott worked for his father, Charles McDermott, as a labourer and digger driver in his father's Kaikohe earthmoving company, MDT, working as many as 65 hours a week.

However, an Employment Relations Authority (ERA) decision found the younger man had been abruptly sacked by his father after being accused of "telling everyone our business" and gossiping about McDermott Sr's relationship with his then-partner.

The son told the ERA that in March last year he had received a call at home on a Sunday - his one full day off of the week - from his father telling him to come to his house immediately for a meeting.

No reason was given and he was not advised to bring a support person.

When he arrived at his father's house, several people were present and his father accused him of "telling everyone our business". The son took this to refer to a conversation he had had with a contractor about the owners of another excavation business.

He told the ERA the meeting became heated and ended with the older man telling him he was sacked.

However, his father told the ERA the meeting was a purely personal matter, concerning an allegation that the younger man had been gossiping with clients about his father's relationship with his then-partner.

He agreed the meeting had become heated, and said it had ended with this son saying: "F*** this s***,  I am out of here".

The older man responded by telling his son to return a company vehicle and mobile phone.

In her ruling, ERA member Eleanor Robinson said that while McDermott Sr claimed the meeting was concerned with a purely personal matter, it had had consequences for his son's employment.

"There is no dispute between the parties that a direct result of the meeting had been the termination of Mr [Nathan] McDermott's employment."

Finding that the younger man had been unjustifiably dismissed, Robinson said: "I accept that this is a situation in which a familial and employment relationship were closely combined, however there remains the onus on MDT to behave as a fair and reasonable employer towards Mr McDermott as its employee, and this it failed to do."

She ruled that MDT should pay Nathan McDermott $7260 for lost wages, $6000 for hurt and humiliation, $1320 for notice entitlement that he had not received, $544.50 for hours worked but not paid, and $1487.62 for outstanding holiday payments.

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