Pink hair dismissal case costing realtor more

JONO GALUSZKA JONO.GALUSZKA@MSL.CO.NZ
Last updated 12:00 03/07/2014

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A Feilding real estate company is about to feel more financial pain from a saga involving a pink-haired employee it unlawfully suspended and underpaid.

The Employment Relations Authority ordered Ray White Real Estate in Feilding to pay former property manager Caroline Hanger $18,700 earlier this year.

The authority found the company's actions towards Hanger created an unjustified dismissal.

Hanger worked for Ray White from March 2012 until she resigned in July last year, and there were minor issues along the way.

One of those was using a company car for travel outside of work, but the main issue came from a botched dye job on her hair.

She turned up to work in June last year with pink stripes through her hair, and agreed to get it sorted.

But multiple hair washes and a visit to a hairdresser did not help enough.

The authority found there was no evidence to show Hanger was forced out of her job, but the resignation was brought about by a combination of events which all created an unjustified dismissal.

They also found Hanger had been paid less than the minimum wage and was underpaid commission.

Hanger then decided to take Ray White back to the authority to claim costs.

In a decision released yesterday, the authority ordered Ray White to pay Hanger $4000 in costs.

Ray White's total bill to pay to Hanger is now $22,000.

In her decision, authority member Trish MacKinnon said Hanger had spent $10,300 in taking action against her former employer. She wanted Ray White to contribute $6300 towards her costs, but Ray White opposed any costs award.

They said the case was not complex or extraordinary enough, and any costs Hanger incurred were both unnecessary and unreasonable.

They also submitted Hanger was unsuccessful in some of her claims in the original ERA case, and that costs should "lie where they fall".

But MacKinnon said it was appropriate Hanger was awarded costs for the one-day investigation meeting, as she had been successful in many of her claims.

As that meeting started at 9am and went for 11 hours, with only a short lunch break, MacKinnon decided costs should be $4000 instead of the usual $3500 awarded per day.

Ray White must also reimburse Hanger's filing fee of $71.56. She previously said working at Ray White was mostly a good experience.

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- Manawatu Standard

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