Candyland boss wins fight to revisit employment case

MARYANNE TWENTYMAN
Last updated 13:13 17/12/2012

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The owner of a prominent Waikato business has won the right to have an Employment Court case reheard, claiming financial burden and that the original decision was unfair.

Candyland owner and director Michele Coker was fined almost $12,000 by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) in June after it found she had unjustifiably dismissed former employee Jo-Anne Jarvis in July 2011.

However Ms Coker appealed the decision and was heard in the Employment Court in Auckland earlier this month, where Chief Judge Graeme Colgan ordered a conditional stay of execution on the Authority's decision.

Citing Candyland's clear financial pressures, Judge Colgan ordered that Ms Coker pay $2000 per month to the Registrar of the Employment Court from 1 January 2013 where the money would be held until the outcome of a new hearing in March.

''If the plaintiff defaults on those payments then there will be no stay of execution of the Authority's determination and Ms Jarvis will be free to pursue her remedies in the usual way,'' he said.

Ms Coker found herself on the wrong end of a personal grievance after dismissing part-time worker Jo-Anne Jarvis in July last year for serious misconduct.

Mrs Jarvis' husband, Barry, also worked for Candyland on an as-required basis.

As a show of support for his wife Mr Jarvis stopped working for the firm following a discussion between his wife and employer on July 27 when Ms Coker made it clear she did not want Mrs Jarvis back.

In June ERA member Rachel Larmer said Candyland's dismissal of Mrs Jarvis was unjustified stating that allegations of serious misconduct were not fair and reasonable.

In making her judgment Ms Larmer said Mrs Jarvis was not without fault in contributing to her situation and took that into account when ordering Ms Coker to pay costs amounting to more than $12,800.

Following the decision Ms Coker said she felt like she had been ''kicked in the teeth'' by the ERA and was considering moving her candy making operation off-shore.

Ms Coker said the difference between good staff and bad was a deal-breaker in a business like Candyland.

"As a manager I know that good staff is your best asset. I want them to enjoy their job and be happy and enjoy what they are doing that's important for the success of our business, " she said.

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