An employee whose car broke down on the way to work was immediately sacked after her boss saw it as the final straw.
Eyeline Optical employee Renee Owen was fired after calling in sick repeatedly and often running late to work. Her car breaking down on the motorway was the last straw for employers Brian and Diane Black.
The Employment Relations Authority has now ruled the dismissal was unjustified and awarded nearly $10,000 in damages to Owen. Her former employer says the case highlights problems with employment law.
During her 28 months of employment, Owen used all her sick leave and began using annual leave for health reasons. This totalled more than 50 days.
She was spoken to regularly and given a final warning in July last year. She was told any further infringement would result in termination with one week's notice.
Owen said that, at that point, she thought it best to resign but it was agreed she would stay on until she found another job.
When her car broke down, she waited more than an hour to contact her boss.
Black's response to her text was: "You have blown your job. Last pay tomorrow."
ERA member Greg Wood said Owen could have phoned or texted earlier, but in immediately terminating her job, her employer had not acted fairly.
Black said that he and his wife were disappointed with the decision, which highlighted problems in employment law for small businesses, "particularly when you are trying to be kind and sympathetic towards employees".
Remedies of $2969 in unpaid leave, $2000 in compensation and $2136 in lost wages were awarded as well as $2000 in costs.