Sweet owner's employment battle turns sour

16:00, Feb 26 2014

Round three of the employment battle between the owner of the Waikato's sweetest tourist attraction and a former employee has come to a close, and it's time to dish out the sweet stuff.

Candyland owner Michele Coker now has a bill totalling nearly $25,000 after losing an employment dispute and two appeals relating to it.

The drama began back in 2011 when Ms Coker found herself on the wrong end of a personal grievance after dismissing part-time worker Jo-Anne Jarvis in July for serious misconduct.

Ms Coker was fined nearly $13,000 by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) in 2012 for the wrongful dismissal of Ms Jarvis, but appealed the decision.

Last year the matter was taken to the Employment Court, where Judge Christina Inglis agreed with the authority and again ruled that Mrs Jarvis' "dismissal was procedurally and substantially flawed".

After this appeal, Ms Coker was tipped to pay more than $20,000 after being ordered to pay extra compensation by way of hurt and humiliation along with covering Mrs Jarvis' costs for the appeal.

But Ms Coker took the battle into round three and has now come away with an even bigger bill of $24,905.88.

The total is made up of $3748.28 in lost wages, $4500 compensation, $5250 for ERA costs, $71.56 for reimbursement, $11,000 in court costs and $336.04 to cover the paperwork of Ms Jarvis' representation. Ms Jarvis' representative, employment advocate Mark Nutsford, said the court process had been exhausting and it was sad it came this far.

"It's such a shame because it could've been solved so easily if she just accepted she did something wrong," he said.

"This is the sort of case that would typically settle for $5000-$6000 in mediation."

Mr Nutsford said although he had heard Ms Coker would be firing up for another round, it was unlikely she would do so.

"The only course of action from here would be the Court of Appeal and not only would that be very expensive, but she would no longer be able to represent herself."

Ms Coker could not be reached to comment.


Waikato Times