Fired For Smelling Like Smoke - Employee Wins In Court

Publish Date
Friday, 18 March 2016, 7:34AM


A Tauranga cleaner and childcare worker unjustifiably dismissed after she was accused of having a sneaky smoke at work has been awarded $1750 in costs.

The Employment Relations Authority found that Susan Mary Taylor was unjustifiably dismissed by Jub Jub Limited after she walked out of her workplace during an altercation with her manager Nicki Hale about alleged smoking on April 24 last year.

Ms Taylor told the Authority she was dismissed by Ms Hale via email.

On April 24, Ms Taylor was at work when she was confronted by Ms Hale about smelling of cigarette smoke - smoking was forbidden at work.

Ms Taylor, who was about to start her childcare duties, admitted smoking prior to coming on duty but told Ms Hale did not think she smelt of smoke.

The Authority's ruling also revealed both women went into Ms Hale's office, where Ms Taylor became agitated and left the building.

The same day Ms Hale emailed Ms Taylor reminding her that smoking was not tolerated, and highlighted concerns about her relationship with a client becoming "a little intense"
In the same email Ms Hale went onto state: " I think we have reached the end of the line as far as working together. I want to thank you for the work you have done for us. Your cleaning skills are brilliant and we will miss you... I will of course pay you what you are owed up to including yesterday the 23 April."

Ms Taylor took this as a letter of dismissal and raised a personal grievance on June 18, 2015.

Authority member Tania Tetitaha said she did no accept the respondent's position that Ms Taylor terminated her contract by walking out on April 24.

Ms Hale was aware that Ms Taylor had personal issues which included a tendency to leave stressful situations by walking out, she said.

"I do not accept Ms Hale's explanation her email dated April 24, was supposed to open communications," Authority member Tania Tetitaha said.

"Given my finding Ms Taylor was dismissed and the lack of evidence to show any fair process prior to dismissal, I find Susan Mary Taylor was unjustifiably dismissed by Jub Jub Limited."

But, Ms Te Tetitaha declined to make an order for lost remuneration because there was no evidence that Ms Taylor took steps to mitigate the loss by seeking alternative work.

She also reduced the $3500 compensation sought by Ms Taylor by half after it found her contributory conduct included her swearing at Ms Hale prior to walking out.

NZ Herald/Bay Of Plenty Times