Worker gets $13,000 payout after rude rant

AMY JACKMAN
Last updated 05:00 08/11/2012

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Another worker has won a wrongful dismissal payout after delivering an expletive-ridden rant at her boss.

Christine Wilds, who worked at UGL New Zealand in Upper Hutt, swore at supervisor Ian Clough during a meeting.

Mr Clough asked her to stop swearing. She left the room, but returned soon after to swear at him again.

At a disciplinary meeting five days later, Ms Wilds, a 55-year-old projects administrator, was told her employment was terminated because of serious misconduct.

However, the Employment Relations Authority has found that UGL did not follow due process, and did not take into account her 10 years of service, satisfactory performance reviews and lack of previous incidents.

Authority member Paul Stapp awarded her more than $13,000, made up of $8812.50 for lost wages, and $4500 for hurt, humiliation and loss of dignity.

The decision follows one last week involving Taita bus driver Cazna Waaka, 44, who was awarded $10,000 after telling her manager where to "stick your job."

Ms Wilds said yesterday that she was still embarrassed by her outburst, at a meeting with Mr Clough on September 27 last year, when she was upset at changes he was suggesting for her work.

"I'm really glad it's over," she said. "I hadn't been told of changes at work and I didn't know anything about it until the meeting, so I guess that just built up.

"There was so much stress over the last year and I'm really ashamed I got into that situation. It's not something I'm proud of."

The authority was told she apologised for her behaviour at the disciplinary meeting and initially offered her resignation before retracting it.

The company told the hearing that Mr Clough and human resources adviser Kelly Graham told her at the meeting that her employment was terminated.

However, Mr Stapp found that Mr Clough should not have been the person conducting the disciplinary process, because he was involved in the allegations.

Mr Stapp added that, though he believed Ms Wilds' apology was genuine, she was responsible for 25 per cent of the situation.

Ms Wilds said the money had come as a relief and she planned to use it to pay off bills from the past year.

Employment lawyer Susan Hornsby-Geluk said the latest ruling did not mean that swearing was acceptable in the workplace. "It is incumbent on employers to make the expectations of their employees clear."

In this case it appeared the employer did not conduct a balanced investigation.

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"Even if an employer catches an employee with their hand in the till, they still have to conduct a fair and objective investigation and make a fair decision."

- The Dominion Post

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