Margot Gazeley, wrongly accused of elder abuse, has won her job back.
In a long fought-for decision, an Employment Court judge has ordered Oceania Group to not only reinstate Mrs Gazeley in her job as facility manager at the Woodlands Rest Home and Retirement Village in Motueka but also give her two years' back pay and compensation.
It's a huge relief for the Richmond woman and now she is looking forward to returning to work, even though it was there that unfounded allegations were made against her.
"The judge hit the nail on the head, including about vindictive staff and he was so right," she said.
Mrs Gazeley, with lawyer Anjela Sharma, has spent more than two years trying to prove her dismissal was unjustified.
It is an experience not for the fainthearted, she says. "My inner strength has been tested at times.'
The court has overturned an Employment Relations Authority decision that was in Oceania's favour with Judge Mark Perkins now ruling that the dismissal was unjustified.
Mrs Gazeley, who has been nursing for 40 years and had also worked at the Otumarama Rest Home and Omaio Retirement Village, said the two and a half-year battle to clear her name had consumed her life. "It was absolutely harrowing."
After being dismissed she was afraid to leave the house. "It was the most horrendous time in my life."
However, represented by Ms Sharma, she took her case to court.
"I had to fight for justice because I had not done anything wrong," said Mrs Gazeley.
Mrs Gazeley said she was grateful to family, friends and the staff who had stuck by her, and she would return to work. "I will go back and be the same person as before."
Ms Sharma said Mrs Gazeley had been wrongly and publicly vilified for heinous allegations against her, including elder abuse. Challenging the grounds of her dismissal had been a long and arduous process.
"Mrs Gazeley was left with no choice then to seek self-vindication of the claims against her which completely destroyed her very good reputation within the aged care service industry, making it near impossible for her to mitigate her situation," said Ms Sharma.
They had been confident justice would prevail in the court.
"The court's findings have properly vindicated Mrs Gazeley, and reinstated her to a position of having done no wrong."
The court's decision highlighted the importance of the requirement for an employer to conduct a fair investigation into disciplinary allegations in justifying a decision to dismiss, said Ms Sharma.
Oceania's current chief executive Guy Eady said he had no choice but to accept the court's decision.
The judgment was surprising given the previous hearing had endorsed what the company had done, he said.
Mrs Gazeley's acceptance back at work would depend on all those involved - her, the staff and management.
"An awful lot has been done. This happened over two years ago, a lot of water has gone under the bridge in regard to staff relations on site."
- The Nelson Mail
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