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'Expensive paperweight' fired after Facebook posts

VICTORIA ROBINSON
Last updated 05:00 18/12/2010

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A former Social Development Ministry employee landed in hot water after posting a Facebook description of herself as a "very expensive paperweight", "highly competent in the art of time wastage, blame-shifting and stationary [sic] theft".

The Employment Relations Authority in Auckland this week refused to uphold a complaint from Tania Dickinson, 34, that she was unfairly dismissed from her role as a prison reintegration case manager at Work and Income's Kawakawa service centre.

She was sacked in April for her comments on the social networking site, as well as arson charges she was facing at the time, and an incident in 2007 where she had been given a formal warning for accessing records of clients that she knew.

Ministry bosses told her then that her behaviour had ruined their trust and confidence in her as an employee.

Ms Dickinson's Facebook page also included her favourite quotation: "hey boss, can I go home sick???".

Authority member Dzintra King said in her judgment that the online comments "endorsed a stereotyped view of slothful and exploitative public servants".

"They are derogatory of the public service and they are disparaging."

The Facebook postings would not in themselves have warranted Ms Dickinson's dismissal but, combined with her past behaviour, the ministry was justified in its actions because management could not trust her, Ms King said.

Ms Dickinson also argued she was unjustifiably disadvantaged by the ministry when her bosses suspended her with full pay in September 2009, and March 2010.

Ms King upheld this complaint.

Last week Ms Dickinson was sentenced to four years' jail in Whangarei District Court for setting fire to her former girlfriend's home.

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