Trial period blunder sees cannabis-smoking worker awarded compensation

A worker who was sacked for being under the influence of synthetic cannabis onsite was awarded compensation last week because of a basic mistake from his employer.

Trial period blunder sees cannabis-smoking worker awarded compensation
A labourer who was sacked following accusations that he smoked synthetic cannabis onsite was unjustifiably dismissed, a court has ruled.

His employer, Core Infrastructure, was found to have fired him under a 90 day trial period that did not exist.

Two weeks after beginning his role with the company, Nico Wiremu was fired because a colleague believed he was under the influence of cannabis or synthetic cannabis while working.

Wiremu subsequently took his case to the Employment Relations Authrity (ERA).

Chris Pampoukidis, the colleague who reported the suspicions, claimed to have noticed the smell of marijuana in a portable building on site. He told the ERA that when he asked Wiremu about the smell, he had giggled and smirked in response.

Pampoukidis added that later in the day, he had seen Wiremu smoking and saw an empty packet of synthetic cannabis on the ground.

Pampoukidis claimed that he watched his co-worker walking through the site, and that he was “swaying from left to right, walking real slow and did not look healthy to be on site”.

Wiremu allegedly then sat in the middle of the road, and Pampoukidis said he heard Wiremu say he was “being a cone”, adding that he was “mumbling and being vague”.

Sasha Phillips, the assistant project manager, was later called, resulting in the standing down of Wiremu.

Phillips told Wiremu he was being dismissed under the 90 day trial period in his individual agreement.

However, the ERA investigation found that there was no valid 90 day trial period agreement in Wiremu’s contract.

Core Infrastructure accepted that the clause was not present in the contract, but asked the ERA to waive any remedies awarded to Wiremu because he had been under the influence of drugs on the job.

Throughout the process, Wiremu maintained that he had not smoked any cannabis while at work.

Member of the authority David Appleton found that the company had not conducted a proper investigation into Pampoukidis’ claims.

Phillips told the ERA that if she had been aware that the 90-day trial period was missing from Wiremu’s contract, she would have investigated the claims further and requested a drug test.

In spite of this, the ERA found he had lost earnings of $5,140 because of the unjustified dismissal and awarded him $2500 for his distress.

However, Wiremu's evidence was not deemed credible, and Appleton ruled that it was likely he had been smoking synthetic cannabis on site. He therefore reduced the lost wages and compensation by 75%, awarding Wiremu a final total of $1910.

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