1493699847447 - Thames woman yet to see a cent of $20k compensation from former employer

Thames woman yet to see a cent of $20k compensation from former employer

A Thames woman who was assaulted by her former boss, who was also her partner, is owed almost $20,000 in compensation and legal costs.

Hauraki Rail Trail (HRT) was ordered by the Employment Relations Authority to pay Carol Baker the money in August 2015. Baker is yet to see a cent.

Baker, was awarded $17,500 in compensation and costs, after she was assaulted by Peter Maynard, who was also manager of Hauraki Rail Trail Limited (HRT).

She started work in Thames for HRT as a marketing manager in January 2012, after entering a romantic relationship with Maynard, according to a Employment Relations Authority [ERA] decision.

READ MORE: Hauraki Rail trail ex-employee wins case against former boss

Baker moved out of Maynard’s house in June 2012 after breaking off the relationship but wanted to continue working for HRT.

Then on June 22, Baker said Maynard assaulted her. Maynard was found guilty of assault following a jury trial.

Following the assault Baker sought help from Women’s Refuge. She was then forced to leave her job at HRT.

“Where the employer’s agent assaults the employee that constitutes such a grave repudiation of the normal incidents of employment as to constitute an unjustified dismissal,” ERA member James Critchton said.

“…no right thinking employee could reasonably be expected to continue in the employment.”

DAVID AND GOLIATH

The 48-year-old said she had not received any payments from HRT – which was no longer trading – since the ERA determination.

But the aged care worker and yoga instructor hasn’t given up fighting for what she’s owed.

Baker had taken out a second mortgage on her house and used legal aid to get her through the process.

She had sought free advice from Citizens Advice Bureaus – moving to a different office every time she used up her free allotment.

But it was worth it to inspire others to continue fighting, even if they had fewer resources than their opponent, she said, adding that she saw it as a “David and Goliath story”.

“I think it’s been good for me to stand up to these people to show that I’m not going to lie down… it has been important for me to stand up for myself and show I’m not going to take the knocks.”

STRENGTH OF THE LAW

One of Baker’s frustrations was the lack of strength in the law to force companies to pay the money they owed.

While the ERA had ordered the payment, the body did not have an enforcement agency to compel HRT to pay.

“The government has a department that’s there for the people and they haven’t done anything.”

Employment laws meant when an order was made against a company, the company was responsible for paying the compensation owed, not an individual. 

In order to better her chances of being paid the money owed to her, Baker applied to the High Court to stop HRT from removing itself from the register until the dispute was over.

That meant although the company was not trading, it was still a listed company and liable to pay the compensation.

Baker, who won that court battle, said representing herself was a “mammoth task” but it was worth it.

The next battle was trying to get the money.

THE SALE

Baker went to a court bailiff in the hopes they would be able to seize HRT’s assets so she could receive her compensation.

The bailiff report dated November 11, 2015, said the compensation could not be secured from the business address as the company had been sold, meaning there were no HRT assets at the address.

However, the non-trading company HRT had sold its physical assets to Mike Barnett’s Hauraki Cycle Trail (a separate, unrelated entity) in February 2015 for $386,000.

Mike Barnett, who is currently listed as a 50 per cent shareholder of HRT on the Companies Office register, said he no longer had anything to do with the company. 

Documents show Barnett resigned as a director and sold his HRT shares on January 27, 2015.

However, his name could not be removed from the company’s listing until HRT filed its 2015 tax returns, he said.

Barnett said while he had been caught on the fringe of the dispute due to former business interests, it no longer had anything to do with him.

When Stuff contacted Peter Maynard to ask why HRT hadn’t paid the compensation, especially considering the $386,000 sale of assets, he denied ever being involved in an employment dispute with Baker then hung up.

He refused to respond to subsequent requests for comment.

‘SHE DESERVES JUSTICE’

Employment law expert David Collins started working with Baker a couple of years ago.

Under current laws, creditors and those owed money via ERA orders were missing out on what they were owed, he said.

Baker had tried the Companies Office, the liquidator and the High Court in order to get the money she was owed.

“She’s gone through a hell of a lot… she deserves justice,” Collins said.

Baker said the ongoing legal battle was worth the “trials and tribulations” even if the outcome wasn’t what she had originally hoped for.

“OK, I might not get my money but at the end of the day the journey has strengthened me as a person…

“For me now, it’s not so much about winning the money but about making the change for others so it doesn’t happen again.”

Are you owed compensation following an Employment Relations Authority determination? You can share your story by emailing newstips@stuff.co.nz