1492388143913 - Wellington man awarded $2000 for unfair suspension

Wellington man awarded $2000 for unfair suspension

A former Ministry for Primary Industries employee has been awarded compensation for being barred from work after he assaulted another employee.

Former New Plymouth MPI compliance officer Clive Smith has been awarded $2000 in compensation after the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) found he was unfairly suspended by Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

Smith claimed he was unjustifiably dismissed for physically assaulting another colleague at a farewell party in 2015.

But the ERA had upheld MPI’s grounds for dismissal of Smith.

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In 2015, Smith hit a colleague – referred to by the ERA as Mr X – several times that left him with face and head injuries. During a second incident shortly after, Mr X hit Smith to the ground with a single punch.

MPI investigated the incident and Smith admitted during an interview more than once that he’d “f…… up”.

Smith also said he was suffering from depression and family issues and was given the choice of sick leave or suspension in order for him to address his health issues.

Five weeks later, Smith was given medical clearance from a doctor to return to work but MPI thought it would be more appropriate for him to remain on special paid leave.

However, Mr X was allowed to return to work while MPI investigated the incident.

The investigation found both men had breached MPI’s code of conduct and Smith was fired for instigating the fight.

But member of the Employment Relations Authority Trish MacKinnon found MPI treated Smith unfairly by not allowing him to return to work after he was given medical clearance.

“The choice he was given was between remaining on special paid leave or being suspended,” MacKinnon said.

“Whichever he chose had the same effect of denying him access to the workplace. It was a Hobson’s choice situation as he had no alternative other than to remain away from work.

“While MPI labelled Mr Smith’s absence as special paid leave, I find in the circumstances it was effectively a suspension.”

MacKinnon found Smith did not have a personal grievance for unjustifiable dismissal but was not given the opportunity to redeem himself during the investigation like Mr X was.

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