Sacked farm worker wins compo

A dairy herd manager sacked for breaking a cow's tail by violently twisting it has been awarded compensation in his unfair dismissal case.

Farm owners Suzy and Ross Bolton, of Egmont Village, fired Brett Mathys in December 2010 for serious misconduct after accusing him of breaking the cow's tail.

Mr Mathys agreed that he twisted the cow's tail but denied breaking it.

A vet was called and determined that the cow's tail had been recently broken.

The argument ended up in the Employment Court and in his decision released this week, the Employment Relations Authority member Paul Stapp gave the sacked manager the benefit of the doubt, saying there was no proof Mr Mathys did break the cow's tail.

Mr Stapp also found that the employers were unfair when they summarily dismissed Mr Mathys.

He ordered them to pay him $4707.50 in lost wages plus $2100 in compensation for hurt and humiliation.

Mr Mathys had asked for $20,000 compensation, but Mr Staff reduced the payment, finding him 30 per cent responsible for the harm to the cow which was in his care at the time.

Mr Stapp said Mr Bolton acted unfairly when he fired Mr Mathys without giving him an opportunity instead to discuss a penalty.

The first meeting between the boss and worker turned into a swearing match.

"A fair and reasonable employer would have had a second meeting for input on a penalty," Mr Stapp said.

"A proper investigation would have disclosed that Mr Mathys was under stress."

Mr Mathys claimed that a quarter of the 900 cows on the farm had broken tails but Mr Bolton and the farm manager countered there were only about 12 to 14 with broken tails.

Yesterday vet Rob Mills told the Taranaki Daily News it was unfortunately common 30 years ago to see broken cow's tails in the days of walk-through cowsheds.

"Thirty years ago you would commonly find up to 20 per cent of a herd with broken tails.

"The tail of a cow doesn't randomly break. Farmers would grab the tail to force the cow into the bale."

Today he would be surprised if there was as many as a dozen or so in a herd with broken tails.

It was illegal to dock cows' tails but not illegal to remove the tip "with the swish".

Most farmers today just trimmed the hair at the end of the tail, Mr Mills said.

Taranaki Daily News