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Woman sacked after complaining about Invercargill colleague's Tinder 'tits' comment awarded $45,000

A woman who was sacked after complaining that a colleague made offensive comments about her Tinder profile has been awarded $45,000 compensation for lost wages, humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to her feelings.

The Employment Relations Authority has ordered heating company Rayner in Invercargill to reimburse and compensate Gayle Clearwater who worked as a sales person and personal assistant in its solid fuels team.

Ms Clearwater said she was subject to an unjustified disadvantage due to the failure by Rayner to provide her with a safe working environment after she made a complaint about a co-worker. 

She also said she was unjustifiably dismissed by Rayner as a result of a “sham” redundancy process. Rayner, which has now ceased trading, denied Ms Clearwater’s allegations. 

The ERA decision says in July 2017, an incident occurred where a co-worker of Ms Clearwater, Larry Thompson, told two of her other co-workers he had seen Ms Clearwater’s Tinder profile and it had “a picture of her tits on it”. 

Ms Clearwater was told this by one of the co-workers to whom Mr Thompson had made the comment.

Ms Clearwater said Mr Thompson’s statement was not true and that her profile picture only displayed her head and shoulders. Evidence she provided to the authority supported this. 

Ms Clearwater had approached Mr Thompson in the workshop, and asked him why he was telling some of her male colleagues she had her “tits out” on a public dating site and told him to “shut his mouth” and not “lie about shit”. 

Next day she emailed a complaint to management saying she was feeling upset and extremely uncomfortable being alone in the office with Mr Thompson, and denyimg the existence of the photo he claimed to have seen.

Ms Clearwater said the financial controller told her Mr Thompson's alleged conduct was not "full on" sexual harassment, and she then doubted her complaint was being taken seriously.

She took out a personal grievance against Mr Thompson in October 2017, but within days was told of a "proposed restructure" of  Rayner's Invercargill branch which if implemented would result in her redundancy.

Ms Clearwater said she found it “interesting” that Rayner decided to restructure its Invercargill operation five days after she raised her personal grievance. 

The financial controller said the restructure which resulted in the disestablishment of Ms Clearwater’s position “was absolutely genuine and a proper process was followed”.

Employment Relations Authority member Andrew Dallas found that Rayner's treatment of Clearwater was "not the actions of a fair and reasonable employer" and that she had a personal grievance against the company for failing to provide her with a safe environment.

He also found she was unjustifiably dismissed because her redundancy was "carried out for a pre-determined ulterior purpose other than for genuine business reasons as permitted by law".

The authority ordered Rayner pay Ms Clearwater $14,095 for lost wages, any applicable holiday pay on that amount, and an award of $30,000 as compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.

Tinder app on smartphone (file picture). Source: istock.com