$28,000 for manager's 'unjustifiable' sacking

AIMEE GULLIVER
Last updated 05:00 09/01/2014

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

Michael Stocker was the information technology manager at Car Giant at Petone from September 2011 until he was dismissed on May 2 last year.

Car Giant was ordered to pay Mr Stocker three months' wages, $8000 in compensation and legal costs after the authority found the company had unjustifiably dismissed him without notice.

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

Stocker had been headhunted by Car Giant in September 2011, soon after leaving his former job, to play a major role in the newly formed business.

He said he was proud to be a part of the business.

In January 2012, Mr Philpott took over as chief executive, and Mr 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.

Mr Stocker was called to a meeting with Mr Philpott on May 2 where he was told he was to be dismissed immediately and would receive no further payments from the company. He was asked to clear out his work space and hand in his cellphone and company vehicle.

Mr Stocker was prepared for a discussion on his role but was appalled to be given no notice and told to leave with no further salary payment, he told the authority.

Mr Philpott informed Mr Stocker that he would be paid only up until that day because he was a contractor, when he was in fact an employee, the authority 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 dismissed at the same time had received an average of five weeks' pay in lieu of notice to allow them to look for alternative employment, Mr Stocker told the authority.

He told 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.

Mr Stocker's wife died soon after he lost his job, leaving him to bring up his two children as a solo parent.

A letter provided to Mr 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".

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

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The authority ordered Car Giant to pay Mr Stocker three months' wages totalling $19,878.72 gross, $8000 compensation and $303.52 to cover his legal costs and the authority's filing fee.

- The Dominion Post

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