A waiter fired after pocketing a $15 tip his employer thought he'd stolen from the till has won more than $10,000 after complaining to the Employment Relations Authority.
Rhys Pollock was employed at The Hardware Cafe in Titirangi in October 2011 and fired on January 14 this year in the middle of the busy cafe and in full view of staff and customers over allegations he'd taken money from the cash register a week earlier.
According to a recently released authority decision, Pollock said he was "shocked and distressed" by the claim two colleagues had seen him steal and denied he had done so. However, he said there was nothing he could say in his defence because he couldn't recall the specifics of the day as it was ''one of the cafe's busiest days with customer's lined up outside the cafe's door'' for most of his shift.
Pollock wrote to the cafe owner, Theresa Gore, three days later and again denied the allegation and told her he was ''embarrassed by the way he had been dealt with'' and hadn't been given an opportunity to defend himself.
She did not respond.
On January 18, Pollock recalled that on the day in question a customer paid an $85 bill with $100 note and he'd forgotten to give him change. According to the decision, Pollock took $15 from the till and approached the customer who told him to keep the change.
Pollock pocketed the tip believing he was entitled to keep it as that had been the practise in previous hospitality jobs he'd had.
The authority said the cafe had not checked or retained till receipts from January 7 so it could not ''corroborate or disprove'' Pollock's explanation. Had they investigated the day's takings, they would have realised they were $11 in credit.
The authority said Gore should have considered why Pollock made no attempt to hide the fact he was taking money from the till.
"It would be unusual for an employee who wished to steal from their employer to act in the manner Mr Pollock did."
The cafe had also not acted promptly in investigating the matter making it difficult for Pollock to recall events, and the manner in which they fired him was ''extremely unfair''.
The authority said Pollock earned just $400 in the nine weeks it took him to find a new job and ordered the cafe to pay him $4662.50 in lost wages. He had to move back in with his parents and the incident had a ''deeply adverse affect on him and has undermined his emotional and psychological wellbeing''.
He was awarded $6000 compensation, but that was reduced by 10 per cent to reflect that he should have asked his employer if he was allowed to keep the tip.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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