Support worker awarded $20k after dismissal for serious misconduct

An IDEA Services employee was let go unfairly, the Employment Relations Authority has found.
SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF

An IDEA Services employee was let go unfairly, the Employment Relations Authority has found.

A support worker who was humiliated and unable to find work after being accused of getting into bed with a client and kissing her will receive more than $20,000 in lost wages and compensation. 

The Employment Relations Authority has found IDEA Services dismissed Shane Morrow unfairly, leaving him distressed. 

IDEA Services provides community residential housing and support for individuals with intellectual disabilities. 

Morrow was employed as a support worker for about 10 years, but was dismissed for serious misconduct in 2014 following an investigation into a complaint made by the mother of an IDEA Services user. 

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The complaint stated the user had said Morrow had "been in her bed, kissing her and told her not to tell her Mum and Dad". 

The mother of the service user reported the matter to the police, who did not lay charges.. 

Morrow denied the allegations but was dismissed by IDEA Services. 

Morrow sought and was granted $10,000 in compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings, as well as $10,903.75 in lost wages.

The authority's decision said he was distressed by the decision to dismiss him "without giving proper consideration to his colleague's statements".

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"He was humiliated by the nature of the allegation leading to his dismissal."  

Morrow claimed the dismissal was unjustified and the investigation was unfair. 

The decision said police interviewed the service user in 2014.

Morrow was accompanied by a union representative to provide IDEA Services with his initial comments.

Morrow said the service user "lies" and "tells stories to get what she wants", the ERA said. 

The ERA found that IDEA Services wished to conduct its investigation sensitively.

"I find that approach compromised its obligation to ensure it conducted and concluded a full and fair investigation," the decision said.

No inquiry was made with staff and service users who were in regular contact with the residence and who might have had some information, it said.

No inquiry or assessment was undertaken with the service user to see of she had lied about the allegation, or whether there was alternative causes for the complaint. 

Notes taken during the user's assessment and other interviews were not disclosed to Morrow, which precluded him from a proper opportunity to challenge or comment on the allegation or receive information that was a benefit to him, it said. 

"The defects were individually and cumulatively significant and resulted in Mr Morrow being treated unfairly," it said.  

"I accept he was distressed by the decision to dismiss him without giving proper consideration to his colleague's statements. I accept also that he was humiliated by the nature of the allegation leading to his dismissal. Mr Morrow's claim for compensation is granted." 

 - Stuff

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