Marlborough women awarded $28,600 after unjustified dismissal

6 August 2019

A Marlborough publican who emailed his bar manager for compensation for "time wasted" to deal with her bullying complaints must pay the woman close to $30,000. 

Junction Hotel owner Mike Pink asked employee Dawn Langdon for $500 for dealing with her "tirade" of emails and personal meetings after she raised bullying concerns at the pub.

An Employment Relations Authority (ERA) decision released last week said Langdon, who was employed as the hotel's bar manager from August 1, 2017 to March 4, 2018, first flagged "relationship difficulties" with a co-worker on January 25, but she felt she was accused of being the cause.

Langdon arranged to meet Pink in mid-February to help resolve bullying issues, but after arriving was told: "It's not happening."

In late February, Langdon obtained a medical certificate due to workplace stress and took sick leave for six days. Pink emailed her and said he would reduce her shifts from 42 hours a week to 25 hours from March 5.

On March 2, Langdon wrote back and said the change was not discussed with her beforehand, and asked for a response to the bullying concerns she had brought to his attention in mid-February.

Two days later, Pink emailed Langdon and asked for $500 in return for time spent trying "unsuccessfully to resolve [her] problems".

"I expect to receive this within 7 days. I would like you to bear in mind that you receive a free meal each time you are on duty and even get paid for the half hour plus that you have each break," he said. 

Langdon resigned on the grounds that Pink had beached his duty of good faith, telling him in her resignation email she was being "treated in a bullying manner" and owed wages.

She later said at an ERA investigation meeting in Blenheim on May 23 that Pink made her feel like a "complete failure".

Investigators also heard Langdon was not paid for public holidays, had her hours cut, and did not receive employer contributions to her KiwiSaver account. She was also not paid annual leave after she resigned.

Pink told investigators he was "fed up" with answering Langdon's emails and that he "lived in hope that Ms Langdon would resign".

The Junction Hotel was sold to neighbouring petrol station Nelson Petroleum Distributors in mid-July.

ERA member Helen Doyle found Pink had behaved in a manner that was either calculated or likely to destroy or seriously damage the employment relationship, in breach of his employer obligations.

He failed to properly investigate her concerns about working with a co-worker and discouraged the raising of further complaints, she said.

"The evidence supported that the events leading to the dismissal and the dismissal caused Langdon humiliation and loss of dignity," she said.

Doyle found Langdon was "unjustifiably constructively dismissed" from her post and "unjustifiably disadvantaged" when her KiwiSaver deduction and employer contributions were not made.

Pink was ordered to reimburse Langdon $18,000 for humiliation and loss of dignity, $8232 for lost wages, $1232 for annual leave, $849 for KiwiSaver, $224 for public holidays, and $70 for interest.

(SOURCE: Chloe Ranford, The Marlborough Express, 5/8/2019, retrieved from www.stuff.co.nz)

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