CEO's assistant wins $36k after being bullied at work

ERA rules employer failed to provide safe workplace, which led to the disadvantage

CEO's assistant wins $36k after being bullied at work

A bullied personal assistant at a Māori health provider has won $36,000 after the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) ruled that she was unjustifiably disadvantaged in her work.

Jourdan Piacun was a former personal assistant to the CEO of Raukura Hauora o Tainui, where she was initially a contractor in two roles before becoming a full-time staff.

Piacun said that she had concerns about the behaviour of three employees toward her, including the first CEO from when she began her employment, the HR manager who was briefly acting as CEO in September 2018, and a member of the Board of Trustees who was CEO from October 2018 until February 2019.

The personal assistant alleged that the first CEO was rude to her, accusing the CEO of swearing at her and ridiculing her in front of others. He also asked Piacun of "unreasonable and unnecessary demands," and undermined her work to her directly and to others.

On the HR manager, Piacun alleged that the official spoke about her in "derogatory terms to other employees."

According to Piacun, the HR manager also complained about her to other staff, spread rumours about her, undermined her work, excluded her from work meetings, and was rude to her directly and behind her back.

In her accusations against the board-member-turned-CEO, Piacun said the then-CEO behaved insensitively towards her, made inaccurate accusations and derogatory remarks against her, unnecessarily interfered with her work, changed her work requirements without reason, was overly critical of her, and did not support her.

No bullying involved

But Raukura Hauora o Tainui told the ERA that the Piacun's concerns about the first CEO weren't bullying, adding that they addressed her concerns in an independent investigation.

The concerns Piacun made against the CEO and HR manager were also addressed through a board chair who worked with the parties.

According to Raukura, it only became aware of the extent of Piacun's concerns in the second independent investigation they held in 2019. The probe, however, only concluded that Piacun and other employees just weren't compatible.

The health provider also called out Piacun for being reluctant when there were attempts to resolve her concerns, adding that the personal assistant only attended mediation by the end of 2019.

Piacun has since left the organisation, but she filed personal grievance claims to the ERA for unjustified dismissal and unjustifiable action causing disadvantage to her employment.

'Bullied at work'

The ERA ruled that Piacun was indeed bullied at work, noting that the behaviour she was subjected to was repeated, unreasonable, and could and did lead to psychological harm.

"She was undermined and lost confidence and she became anxious and stressed to the point she was unable to work and had to take time off," the ERA said in its ruling.

"In short, Ms. Piacun was bullied at work."

The ERA also rejected Raulura's argument that it did not know about Piacun's bullying until the second investigation.

"Raukura did not do enough to protect Ms. Piacun from this harm which was foreseeable; and therefore, Raukura failed to provide Ms. Piacun with a safe workplace," the ERA said.

It concluded that Piacun was unjustifiably dismissed in her work by Raukura's actions.

"Being bullied at work or more broadly not being provided with a safe workplace causes a disadvantage to an employee's employment and this failure is not justifiable," the ERA said.

The authority has then ordered Raukura to pay Piacun a total of $36,000 for humiliation, loss of signity, and injury to feelings.

Regarding Piacun's unjustified dismissal, however, was dismissed by the ERA because it was not raised within the required 90-day period.

"Therefore, I do not have jurisdiction to proceed to investigate the case," the ERA said in its preliminary ruling.

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