Meatworks to pay employee $8,000 for assignment change

Getting transferred had a detrimental effect on job satisfaction

Meatworks to pay employee $8,000 for assignment change

A seasonal employee of Southland-based meatworks has won $8,000 of compensation from her employer that transferred her to another assignment following a complaint against a male staff member.

A ruling from Employment Relations Authority (ERA) member Philip Cheyne said the $8,000 compensation would restore the employee's "sense of dignity and injured feelings."

The case stems from an incident in May 2019, when the victim's bottom was bumped by a male co-worker with a bucket, which the victim initially thought was a hand until security footage proved otherwise.

According to the victim's written complaint on the issue, she felt "violated and robbed" of her "dignity," adding that she felt unsafe.

The company then decided to appoint an independent investigator to probe the victim's complaint, who concluded that the male co-worker's action was "not capable of being characterised as misconduct or serious misconduct as it occurred in circumstance where there is a general acceptance that staff need to physically touch one another when in close proximity to prevent potential accidents."

According to the investigator, the victim's co-worker only tapped her on the backside as an attempt to notify her of his desire to pass in their narrow walkway, adding that the action was "not of a sexual nature."

Read more: Employment Relations Authority awards $25K to woman fired by ex-boyfriend employer

Transfer to Offal

However, prior to the hiring of an investigator, the victim said she was transferred from the slaughterboard to the offal, which she claimed felt like punishment for filing a complaint, as her reported harasser was not moved.

However, the company's HR manager defended that the victim was only transferred as part of the company's steps to ensure her safety.

"We asked you to work in Offal as you are experienced and specialised in this area and meant you would be working with female rather than male colleagues, the steps taken by the company were for your own safety and was by no means a way of punishing you," the HR manager cleared.

Despite this, the victim said she felt the company did not care for her safety at all, since her alleged harasser "gets to roam around the place."

ERA member Cheyne then sided with the victim on her claim, saying that even though the company was trying to protect the victim by transferring her to a workplace with other women, the victim "did not seek or support that assignment."

The assignment was even a factor in the victim's detriment to some extent, according to the ruling, particularly on her job satisfaction.

Cheyne then said that the victim can establish a "low level of loss or harm attributable to her personal grievance" against her employer.

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