A New Zealand retirement village worker who hid behind a bathroom door after being discovered in a ‘compromising position’ with a gardener has won more than $6,000 in lost wages and compensation after being dismissed for serious misconduct.
The incident occurred in April 2011 when the senior caregiver opened the studio of a deceased resident’s studio with a master key she had in her possession. The flat was unoccupied due to the resident’s recent death and still contained all of his personal belongings and furniture.
Shortly after the caregiver and the gardener entered, the receptionist ushered in the family of a prospective resident. The group discovered the party of two inside. While the gardener proceeded to water the balcony plants, the caregiver hid behind the bathroom door. She even refused to emerge when the visitors came in and saw her there.
The caregiver claimed to have let the gardener in to water the plants, while the gardener suggested that they had been gossiping and were embarrassed at being discovered.
An employment investigation conducted by the manager ended in the caregiver’s dismissal for serious misconduct. She was fired the same day as the disciplinary meeting was held.
However, the dismissal was determined to be unjustified due to several flaws in the process. The investigators had not interviewed the gardener, the caregiver had not been provided with the house rules, her recent stress had not been considered, and she had not been told not to open the studio.
ERA Member David Appleton awarded her more than $6,000 in lost wages and compensation, although he agreed that her misconduct was serious and reduced awards accordingly.