A woman who worked for nine years as head cleaner at an Auckland motel and was sacked less than four months after new owners took over has been awarded nearly $15,000 in compensation for her unjustified dismissal.
The Employment Relations Authority found that the Camelot Arms Motor Lodge in Manukau had tried to denigrate Ann Rawson as a person and an employee and had managed to turn her former colleagues against her by telling them she had said horrible things about her.
The motel owners had also claimed to have made a complaint to the police about Rawson, a claim the authority said was not true and had only been made "in order to gain a tactical advantage over Mrs Rawson by deliberately causing her huge anxiety and embarrassment".
Authority member Rachel Larmer said the case was one in which "almost everything is in dispute" and meant her assessment of credibility was critical to her determination.
Larmer said the case arose from a text message to Rawson from one of the hotel's new owners, Michael Dawson, on April 3 this year, telling her not to come to work that day as the hotel had very few guests.
She phoned him to confirm the situation, and as she hung up she said to herself: "This is f***ing pathetic."
Although she had not meant him to hear the comment, Dawson did, and considered it unacceptable abuse.
The next day when Rawson arrived at the motel and tried to sign in, Dawson prevented her from doing so.
He demanded an apology from her, which she provided. He then told her to "get out", the authority said.
Mrs Rawson called her husband to come and support her, and various other members of the motel management also became involved, with the managers eventually telling the Rawsons to "f*** off".
The Rawsons then left, with Mrs Rawson crying and shaking.
The authority said the Camelot Arms maintained it had not fired Rawson, and that she had resigned.
However, Larmer rejected that claim, saying being told to "f*** off" counted as a "sending away".
She said it was also clear that Camelot Arms "immediately financially benefited from Mrs Rawson's dismissal because it entered into new cleaning arrangements on terms far more favourable to it than the terms and conditions Mrs Rawson had, which the new employer had inherited from her previous employer".
Lawson said Camelot Arms' actions and how it acted were not what a fair and reasonable employer would have done.
She awarded Rawson $5687.50 in lost remuneration and $9000 in distress compensation.