Firm ordered to pay out $28,000

Last updated 11:05 08/01/2014

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A man who suddenly lost his job shortly before his wife's death was unjustifiably dismissed and has been awarded more than $28,000 by the Employment Relations Authority.

Michael Stocker was awarded the money after taking a case against Lower Hutt company Car Giant Limited, where he was IT manager from September 2011 until he was summarily dismissed on May 2, 2012.

Car Giant Limited was ordered to pay Stocker three months' wages, $8000 in compensation, and legal costs after the ERA found the company had unjustifiably terminated his employment without notice.

The company chief executive Greg Philpott embarked on the dismissal process "with a complete disregard for the requirements of natural justice and good faith," the ERA found.

Stocker had been head-hunted by Car Giant Limited in September 2011, shortly after leaving his former employment to play a major role in the establishment of the newly-formed business.

He was proud to be a part of the business and very enthusiastic about it, he said.

In January 2012 Philpott took over as chief executive, and Stocker said he heard office talk of possible layoffs of lower level staff, which did not worry him as he was a senior member of the team.

Stocker was called into a meeting with Philpott on May 2 where Philpott told him he was to be dismissed immediately, would receive no further payments from the company, and was asked to clear out his workspace, hand over his cellphone and hand in his company vehicle.

Stocker was prepared for a conversation about the evolution of his role, but was appalled to be given no notice and told to pack up his desk and leave with no further salary payment, he told the ERA.

Philpott informed Stocker he would only be paid up until that day because he was a contractor, when he was in fact an employee, the ERA found.

Employees on the company's standard individual employment agreement had a provision for four weeks' notice, or pay in lieu of notice in the case of redundancy.

Six other employees terminated at the same time at Stocker had received an average of five weeks' pay in lieu of notice to allow them to look for alternative employment, he told the ERA.

Stocker told the ERA of the "substantial hurt and humiliation" he suffered as a result of his dismissal, which shook his confidence and affected his ability to find alternative employment in the months following.

Stocker's wife died shortly after he lost his job, leaving him responsible for bringing up his two children as a solo father.

A letter provided to Stocker on May 3 headed "cessation of engagement" referred to the company's "precarious financial position" which meant it needed to make "rapid and radical changes in order to survive".

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Philpott's letter informed Stocker of his regret his "engagement" with the company had to come to an end.

The ERA has ordered Car Giant Limited to pay Stocker three months' wages totalling $19,878.72 gross, $8,000 compensation, and $303.52 to cover his legal costs and the Authority's filing fee.

- The Dominion Post

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