Worker fired after punch-up
A Christchurch firm was justified in firing an employee who punched another man in the face because he had been hit by a rubber band, the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has ruled.
Dean Howard had worked as a gluer assistant at Carter Holt Harvey Packaging's Hornby factory for 25 years.
He claimed he was unjustifiably dismissed in August last year after a physical confrontation with another worker.
The incident happened in July last year when Howard punched a temporary employee in the face after being hit in the eye with a rubber band.
The other worker, Avinesh Lal, said he had been pre-stretching rubber bands as part of his job when one "flicked off" and hit Howard in the eye.
Howard then hit Lal in the side of the head without warning, giving him a sore jaw and leaving blood in his mouth.
After interviews with several other workers, Carter Holt suspended Howard on full pay while further investigations took place.
The company said it considered physical harm to others in the workplace as being extremely serious and amounting to serious misconduct.
At a follow-up meeting on August 1, Howard said he had been hit several times in the chest by flying rubber bands on the day of the incident and thought Lal had been trying to wind him up by doing it on purpose.
He said the punch was a "spur of the moment thing" and he had snapped.
The company dismissed Howard at a meeting on August 16.
ERA member Helen Doyle said she did not accept that Howard's action was justified because he had been provoked.
"A defence of provocation to an assault does not sit particularly easily with an apology or remorse that the assault took place."
She ruled that Carter Holt was justified in firing Howard.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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