Employment Court overturns compensation for Spotless worker

The $15,000 compensation judgment for an alleged bullied Timaru Hospital kitchen worker was overturned by the Employment ...
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/FAIRFAX NZ

The $15,000 compensation judgment for an alleged bullied Timaru Hospital kitchen worker was overturned by the Employment Court of New Zealand last week.

The judgment to pay a Timaru Hospital catering worker $15,000 compensation for alleged bullying has been overturned.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) hearing against Spotless Facility Services to compensate the plaintiff for failing to protect her from workplace bullying in May was challenged by Spotless last Monday.

The Employment Court of New Zealand Judge Bruce Corkill found the ERA did not reach "a correct factual conclusion" and put the remedy of compensation aside.

Plaintiff Anne Mackay worked for 12 years as a kitchen assistant for Spotless, which was contracted by the South Canterbury District Health Board.

MacKay complained twice to Spotless site manager Gwenda Norton about a newly appointed supervisor's attitude, manner and demeanour.

The first time Mackay said Norton told her to "get over it" because her colleague was "going nowhere", a claim Norton denied in evidence.

Mackay wrote a letter outlining her complaints. After some altercations over food presentation, Mackay was invited to attend a meeting in June 2014. At the meeting Mackay was told by Spotless national manager health Jason McLennan that letters from staff members complaining about her had been received before she wrote hers.

The names of her co-workers were the subject of a non-publication order made by the ERA as they did not have an opportunity to explain their perspectives of the events.

The ERA said Mackay resigned while on sick leave in August 2014 because Spotless failed to investigate a joint complaint other workers were preparing against her and because of her fears of workplace bullying.

Judge Corkill said in his conclusion of the Spotless appeal that it was not the end of the matter, as the manner of which Mackay's concerns and complaint were dealt with were subject of significant criticisms by the ERA.

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He did not think Spotless could have reasonably foreseen MacKay would not be prepared to continue to work for them.

"Further criticisms emerge from this court's considerations of the chronlogy."

Also the lack of explanation to Mackay on a consensus for mediation or that there were constructive steps which could be taken for all parties, were of concern.

Judge Corkill has asked for submissions to be filed on behalf of Mackay and Spotless by December 19, 2016 for his further consideration.

"Including whether any further directions are necessary before reaching a decision on this topic."

A Spotless Facility Services spokesman declined to comment due to the matter still being under consideration.

 - Stuff

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