Fired ABC tutor awarded $26,000

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 10:22 09/01/2013

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A former early-childhood education tutor has pocketed almost $26,000 for an unfair dismissal.

Heather Giles' former colleagues and students alleged she made students feel ''inadequate, uncomfortable and disrespected'' at ABC Developmental Learning Centre NZ Ltd in Christchurch, where she worked as a tutor from 2007 until she was fired in December 2009.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) heard that Giles had been issued two warnings from ABC manager Andrew Walker about her conduct before being dismissed.

Three complaints were received from students.

The first in 2008 resulted in a warning.

The second, in July 2009, was signed by students who said ''the majority of the class has had enough of the negativity that goes on in the class in regards to this teacher''.

''I am scared to ask for help in assignments as she is unapproachable, rude,'' the complaint said.

''People break down in this class.''

A third complaint was lodged in November 2009 and was quickly followed by a complaint from a colleague after he overheard Giles making what he considered "inappropriate comments'' to one of her students.

Giles told the ERA that students ''objected to my expectations of professionalism so, I believe, I was made their target''.

''Significantly, of the approximately 26 students who started the class in that year, only approximately eight graduated ... most having left because they either could not cope with the work or were not really interested in training to be early-childhood teachers,'' she said.

ERA member Michael Loftus found that each time Giles had been summoned to a disciplinary meeting after a complaint, she had not been given the opportunity to respond to allegations and complaints made about her and that she had been refused access to some complaints until she was in the meetings.

ABC had also not responded to Giles' written request for the professional standards expected of her.

''When an employee requests specifics, especially after having received a warning, there is an obligation to answer and make the rules abundantly clear,'' Loftus said.

The ERA ruled that ABC pay Giles $15,965 for lost wages and $10,000 for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.

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