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Victim deserved 'rude cake' payout, but her actions were unwise - lawyer

A privacy law specialist says the Human Rights Tribunal's decision to award a Hawke's Bay woman more than $160,000 over an argument with her former employer over an offensive cake sets a new legal precedent.

Privacy Law specialist Kathryn Dalziel talks case of woman awarded record pay out in human rights breach. Source: Breakfast

But putting the photo of an offensive cake on Facebook wasn't a wise move.

Karen Hammond was yesterday awarded the hefty sum after her former employer NZ Credit Union Baywide was found to have breached her privacy, caused her humiliation and harmed her future employment opportunities.

The dispute arose when Ms Hammond spelt out "NZCU F*** You" and "C***" on a cake and uploaded a photo of it privately to her friends onto Facebook. The company then sent the photo to her employer at the time and other employment agencies in the region.

Lawyer Kathryn Dalziel says the ruling is "hugely significant" as the sum awarded is more than double the highest award in the Human Rights Tribunal.

She says she disagrees with the Tribunal's ruling that that there was no issue with how the company accessed the photo, as they basically had to force an employee who was Facebook friends with Ms Hammond to show it to them.

Ms Dalziel told TVNZ's Breakfast programme that while the NZCU had few rights over the offensive picture, they did themselves no favours by acting in the way they did.

"The other thing the employer could do is ignore it because it says something about her when she chooses language like that and puts it up on Facebook."

"It had the potential to look just like a disgruntled ex-employee."

She says that Ms Hammond's actions weren't the wisest either and she was naive to think that all of her Facebook friends would keep the image private.

"The language was aggressive and while she thought she was posting to a small group of friends, there was enough people that she was posting to that it carried some risk to her.

"By all means have a party. By all means have a cake and share it amongst the 10 people at the party and enjoy that celebration. Just don't put it on social media."

NZCU Baywide has issued a statement acknowledging the "severity of the Tribunal's orders".

It had already said it was "genuinely sorry for the breaches of privacy and for the hurt and distress caused".