Abusive boss who used c-bomb in text has to pay $40,000

Kirsty Wynn, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 12 Mar 2020, 3:25pm
Abusive texts sent to a plumber have cost a boss $40,000 in a ruling by the ERA. (Photo / Getty)
Abusive texts sent to a plumber have cost a boss $40,000 in a ruling by the ERA. (Photo / Getty)

Abusive boss who used c-bomb in text has to pay $40,000

Kirsty Wynn, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 12 Mar 2020, 3:25pm

A boss who turned up at his employee's home and screamed obscenities at him in front of family and neighbours must pay more than $40,000 for hurt, humiliation and lost wages.

The Employment Relations Authority was told Daniel Oborn, the sole owner of Oborn Plumbing, also sent messages falsely accusing employee Ashley Nicklin of theft, alcohol and drug abuse and sent threatening texts including one saying he had "evidence of things you don't want me to expose".

Oborn also sent a barrage of expletive-ridden text messages telling Nicklin he owed him nothing and calling him a "c**t and a fa**ot"."

During the particularly intense outburst at the employee's home, Oborn demanded the keys for the work van, screaming "give me the f**king keys" in front of neighbours.

Nicklin, a plumber with 13 years experience, started working for Oborn Plumbing in July 2018 and had a good relationship with his boss.

Things only soured between the pair when Oborn and his wife returned from a three and a half week trip to Japan on August 8, 2019.

Nicklin had looked after the business during that time and was paid an additional $400 a week for the added responsibilities.

He had been paid for three weeks but when Nicklin asked for payment for the additional three days the relationship went downhill fast.

Oborn responded to the request with: "No mate that's not fair. Don't get too greedy bro."

He then accused Nicklin of using brass fittings on his own jobs but charging to the company.

Nicklin responded and detailed the jobs he had used brass on.

Oborn then fired back a text telling him not to use the van on the weekends.

On the August 15 Nicklin sent Oborn a text saying he was unable to work that day because his partner and their two young children, aged 5 months and 2, were all sick.

Oborn responded and said he wanted to chat with Nicklin "about a few things" and said, "I'm not happy with you mate."

Nicklin then received some texts from an apprentice who he had been working with telling him that Oborn had decided to remove him from working with Nicklin.

Later, a client called and said Oborn was "bagging him".

The next day Nicklin messaged Oborn to say he was still home with his sick family and wouldn't make it in.

Later that day, at approximately 4.30pm, Nicklin received a telephone call from Oborn.

Oborn was shouting down the phone at him "Give me my f**king keys".

Nicklin then realised that Oborn was outside his home at his work vehicle which was parked 100 metres or so down the street.

Nicklin immediately ran out to the van. He was confronted by Oborn who was screaming at him again "Give me my f**king keys".

Nicklin asked why and was ignored by Oborn who repeated: "Give me my f**king van keys".

Oborn, who was with two other men, became increasingly angry and Nicklin handed over the keys.

Neighbours came out from their homes to see what the yelling was about and a man on the street filmed the incident.

They told the ERA there was a lot of shouting and swearing by Oborn who was becoming extremely agitated and threatening.

The plumber said he was shocked by this treatment and felt humiliated and embarrassed.

He tried to communicate with Oborn following this incident but was repeatedly abused and told he had "quit".

On August 18, 2019 Nicklin messaged Oborn and told him he would not be attending work the next day because he felt intimidated and feared for his safety.

Oborn replied at 5.46 pm:

"Good for you in taking legal action for your stealing hours and under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

"See you in court.

"You're a mess and have shocked all of us with your unprofessional manner.

Minutes later Oborn sent another text: "Straighten your life up and look after your family before you lose everything. I have evidence of things you don't want me to expose."

Nicklin said he was shocked by the false accusations that he was a thief who took drugs and alcohol and by the threats.

On August 29, 2019 at 9.23 am, Nicklin sent Oborn a text asking for his holiday pay and telling him he was acting illegally.

He received the following messages at 9.25, 9.26 and 9.27 am:

"Take me to court you a***hole"

"You fucking stole from me you little c**t"

"We prob owe you nothing you fa**ot"

The ERA found that the way Oborn acted on August 16 was grounds for a personal grievance.

Nicklin told the authority he had become withdrawn and sought professional assistance from his doctor after his dismissal.

He told the ERA he had not recovered from his treatment by Oborn.

For these reasons, he felt unable to look for work immediately and was out of work for 11 weeks.

Oborn must pay the following sums to Nicklin:

$25,000 as compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.
$13,475 for lost remuneration, as a result of his grievance for unjustified dismissal
$2568 holiday pay
$71.56 reimbursement of the filing fee
Oborn must also pay the penalty of $5000 for a breach of the Holidays Act, to the ERA.