A man who had his legs crushed by a car while working at his desk was sacked while he was recovering from multiple surgeries.
Sales engineer Alan Robinson was in a wheelchair for six months after a car ploughed through the glass shopfront of his Petone office in a freak accident.
The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has found that Mr Robinson was unjustifiably disadvantaged and dismissed by his employer, Pacific Seals.
But it also ruled that the company had genuine grounds for deciding it could not keep his job open, after supporting him for 11 months after the accident.
On June 22, 2011, a 59-year-old woman driving a Volkswagen car had a medical seizure in High St, Petone, and crashed through the hydraulics firm's glass frontage on adjacent Cuba St at high speed.
Her car crossed the intersection in front of Pacific Seals, mounted the kerb before careering across a car park and smashing through the glass. It destroyed the reception counter, went through the office and stopped on a concrete wall.
Mr Robinson was sitting at his desk about eight metres from the front door when he was hit by the car. He had 11 operations during his recovery.
The ERA determination, published this month, ordered Pacific Seals to pay Mr Robinson $5000 compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.
He had been seeking about $65,000.
After 11 months off work, he was told by Pacific Seals chief executive Graham Wilton that, although Mr Wilton was "still terribly upset" about the accident, he could no longer keep Mr Robinson's job open.
In her determination, ERA member Michele Ryan said Pacific Seals had genuine grounds for deciding it could no longer hold the job open, and had "considerable empathy" for Mr Robinson, but it should have allowed him a chance to provide additional medical information after the meeting.
She found that concerns Mr Robinson had raised about the safety of the workplace, as well as personal grievances about his dismissal, were unfounded.
Mr Robinson was seeking $25,000 in compensation, $20,000 in general damages and reimbursement of three months' wages, plus the differences between his ACC entitlements and his contractual wages for the period after his dismissal up until the time the ERA began investigating.
Ms Ryan said Mr Robinson was not entitled to wage reimbursement, as he had received earnings-related compensation. His claims for general damages and penalties for breach of good faith were also declined.
Pacific Seals' lawyer, John Tannahill, said the company was happy with the decision as it proved the workplace was not unsafe. While his client admitted it had made a procedural error, it had continued to top up Mr Robinson's pay for almost a year after his accident.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you intentionally buy organic food?Related story: Wellingtonians driving organic food mainstream