ERA: Crane operator sacked despite employer's denial

Dismissal also 'unjustified,' according to ERA

ERA: Crane operator sacked despite employer's denial

A crane operator in New Zealand has won over $50,000 after the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) ruled that he was unjustifiably dismissed - despite his employer's denial that he was fired.

Thomas Wilcox, sole director of TAS Marine Corporation (TMC), told the ERA that it was crane operator Bryce Farmer who decided not to show up to work.

"Bryce was an incompetent crane driver who tipped over one of my cranes costing me over 100k in losses. He then refused to do any other work than drive a particular crane and stopped turning up to work," Wilcox told ERA in an email.

"Bryce Farmer was not sacked by TMC!" he added. "There is therefore no issue here."

Stood down as crane operator

But Farmer told the ERA that he was dismissed from his employment on a text message from Wilcox after he raised concerns about getting demoted from his position as a crane operator.

Farmer, who began in the role in February 2021, said that he was told he was being taken off the crane operation on July 31, 2022, and would be placed on the "tools."

In a meeting on August 1, Farmer was told that he was being stood down from the role because they didn't like the way he started late, knocked off early, and "stuff like that."

These matters, however, were not raised to Farmer prior to the decision because the employer felt afraid of how he would react.

End of employment

Following the meeting, Farmer did not return to work and was told by Wilcox that he wouldn't get paid if he didn't show up.

He was also told that he needs to show up with a "good attitude" or he would be "performance managed out of the job legally."

Farmer, however, told Wilcox to stop bullying him and that he was only employed to operate cranes.

In response, Wilcox said: "And it's clear you don't want to come back. Thank you for your contribution and good luck in the future."

ERA's decision

The ERA ruled that employment relationship between Farmer and TMC ended by dismissal - and it was unjustified.

According to the ERA, Wilcox failed to act in good faith as an employer when he "seized on Mr. Farmer's absence without further inquiry and concluded Mr. Farmer intended to end his employment."

"Mr. Wilcox thought when giving his evidence that he could have dismissed Mr Farmer for performance concerns. That would have required a fair process that had not occurred in this matter," the ERA said in its ruling.

He also prevented Farmer from meeting the site manager, which meant they couldn’t talk through the employment issues.

"He sent Mr. Farmer away without further inquiry as good faith obligations require," the ERA said. "A fair and reasonable employer could not have dismissed Mr. Farmer at the time he was dismissed."

"Mr. Farmer was unjustifiably dismissed and is entitled to consideration of remedies."

TMC is now ordered to pay Farmer $23,400 for lost wages, $22,000 for compensation, $3,600 for payment of two weeks' notice in the employment agreement, as well as $2,420 for final pay and holiday pay.

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