An Otago rest home which fired an employee who wrongfully took a $1 bag of chips will pay her $19,000 in compensation after she successfully sued for wrongful dismissal.
The Employment Relations Authority ruled yesterday that Birchleigh Management Services Ltd in Mosgiel was "unnecessarily severe" when it dismissed Kaye Gillan in July 2016, the Otago Daily Times reports.
In June 2016, Mrs Gillan took a small packet of potato chips meant for residents and tasted them, found they were stale and threw them away.
She had worked for Birchleigh since 2004 and received a favourable performance review three month prior in March 2016.
Birchleigh management, who have strict policies concerning residents’ belongings, called a meeting in response in which Mrs Gillan accepted she had taken the chips but denied dishonest intent.
Mrs Gillan's actions were found to be serious misconduct and she was dismissed.
"A fair and reasonable employer could have found that Mrs Gillan was guilty of serious misconduct, however, such an employer could not have concluded, in all the circumstances, that the essential foundation of trust and confidence in Mrs Gillan had been undermined to such a significant degree to warrant her dismissal," the ERA determination said.
In the months prior to her dismissal, Gillan had told Birchleigh she was being bullied at work.
The ERA did not make a ruling on the bullying claims, which were only considered after her dismissal.
Mrs Gillan, who found a new job soon after her sacking, said yesterday that the dismissal and the bullying affected her mental health.
Birchleigh was ordered to pay $18,750 compensation for wrongful dismissal with Mrs Gillan to also receive reimbursement for lost wages with the sum yet to be agreed on by parties.
Legal costs would also be sought.
Birchleigh was considering an appeal.