Worker awarded $13k after drug dismissal
A Christchurch man who was fired after smoking marijuana while working on a building site has been awarded more than $13,000 in compensation.
In a decision released last month, the Employment Relations Authority ruled that Matthew O'Connell was unjustifiably dismissed from Consortium Construction Ltd (CCL), where he worked as a carpenter.
O'Connell was working on the third-floor scaffolding in an earthquake-damaged building on December 9, 2010, when site foreman Jonathan Small smelt cannabis and identified it coming from O'Connell before telling him to put it out.
Small reported the incident to CCL development manager Danny Whiting, who, just before hometime on December 10, 2010, told O'Connell about the allegation and that his employment would end.
O'Connell denied he was smoking marijuana.
In a second conversation that day, they discussed a drug test, with O'Connell believing he would be dismissed if he did not agree to it rather than that he had been fired.
On the Saturday, after taking some advice, O'Connell declined a drug test when he spoke to Whiting and turned up to work on Monday, when he was given a letter confirming his dismissal.
ERA member Philip Cheyne said that during the dismissal Whiting never told O'Connell any details of the allegation or its source and did not give him any opportunity to comment, refute or explain before dismissing him.
In deciding O'Connell's dismissal was unjustified, Cheyne acknowledged that both parties were equally responsible for the circumstances giving rise to the grievance.
Cheyne said O'Connell's ''blameworthy contribution involved taking marijuana to work, carelessly incorporating some into his roll-your-own cigarette with the tobacco and briefly smoking that cigarette until challenged'' while working in a high-risk environment.
CCL was ordered to pay O'Connell $13,760.
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