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Luxury resort racks up third complaint, owes $100k to former employees

Author
Jeremy Wilkinson,
Publish Date
Mon, 16 Jan 2023, 7:21pm
Carrington Resort continues to be plagued with employment relations issues.
Carrington Resort continues to be plagued with employment relations issues.

Luxury resort racks up third complaint, owes $100k to former employees

Author
Jeremy Wilkinson,
Publish Date
Mon, 16 Jan 2023, 7:21pm

In a matter of weeks, a luxury resort has racked up nearly $100,000 in remedies owed to former employees after an authority ruled in favour of three people found to be unfairly sacked by the estate.

But general manager of Carrington Resort (also known as Carrington Estate) in Northland, William Tan, said despite the number of rulings against the business, it was a safe workplace for his employees.

“I still have hundreds of people willing to work for me,” Tan told NZME, adding that he believed the Employment Relations Authority decisions were “inherently biased”.

The authority’s most recent determination regarding the resort was with respect to a claim made by chef Stacey Roy.

She turned to the ERA when her employment at the resort came to an end last year, claiming she had been unjustifiably dismissed.

In a ruling issued last week, her claim was upheld and the authority ordered the resort to pay her $40,489.

The decision closely followed two others, in which one employee was awarded $21,000 and another $35,000 after it was found they had also been unjustifiably dismissed.

In Roy’s case, she had worked for the business off and on for around 12 years. Her most recent employment there began in December 2020 as a junior sous chef, although she told the ERA she was effectively working as the head chef because she was in charge of the restaurant kitchen.

But her role came to a head one Sunday in April last year after she arrived at work and logged into the staff’s shared computer.

Northland's Carrington Resort is nestled within the trees overlooking a luxury championship golf course. Photo / SuppliedNorthland's Carrington Resort is nestled within the trees overlooking a luxury championship golf course. Photo / Supplied

On the device, she came across an email written by Tan and sent to other kitchen employees stating that Roy was not allowed in the kitchen and was to see him immediately.

Confused and upset by what she saw, she went to his office where, she said, he accused her of “pulling a sickie” the previous day. He dubbed her lazy and said she only wanted to work when it suited her and never when it was busy.

She said Tan also told her that other staff refused to work with her and had made multiple complaints about her. Tan accused her of being on drugs and said she was mentally unstable, Roy said.

She was then told to go home and so she collected her belongings and left, unclear as to whether she still had a job.

The next day, Roy found an email from Tan that had been sent to her on the day she was absent from work due to illness.

In the email, Tan set out a number of issues ranging from reporting requirements when she was sick to claims that there had been complaints about her attitude, work ethic and work quality.

Roy contacted an employment advocate who raised unjustified disadvantage grievances on her behalf. It was alleged that Tan had failed to follow a fair and proper process regarding the complaints, which had unjustifiably disadvantaged Roy in her employment.

Tan did not respond but a few days later, he sent an email to Roy with the subject line “Your resignation and your unannounced visit.”

In it he claimed Roy had “stormed” into his office “unannounced, yelling and shouting” and had not provided an explanation or medical certificate for her sick day. Tan claimed that Roy had resigned and provided no notice period.

Roy’s advocate replied, stating the email was unjustified dismissal and would be pursued as a personal grievance claim.

The ERA attempted to contact Tan by phone and email numerous times to arrange a suitable time for him to attend a hearing and for him to submit evidence to support his case against Roy’s claims, but he continuously failed to respond to the directions.

Evidence that was eventually provided by the business was deemed insufficient by the ERA.

While Tan denied Roy’s claims and said the business had been a fair and reasonable employer at all times and had not suspended or dismissed her, the ERA preferred Roy’s account of what had occurred.

“The respondent was unable to justify its dismissal of Ms Roy because ‘its actions, and how it acted’ were not what a fair and reasonable employer could have done in all the circumstances at the time she was dismissed,” the ruling stated.

The business was ordered to pay $40,489 to Roy in wage arrears, lost remuneration, compensation for distress, unlawful deduction from her final pay, and entitlements that were not paid upon termination of her employment. It was also ordered to pay interest on $7139.28 from May 1 until the amount was paid in full.

When speaking to NZME, Tan said he felt Roy’s claim was “ridiculous” and that he would not be paying her what she had been awarded.

He will appeal against the decision, he said. Tan claimed to have also laid a complaint against a member of the authority.

“The ERA is just determined to punish employers. Look at the hundreds of decisions they make and how many are in favour of the employer,” he alleged.

Last month, former restaurant manager Toni Maheno was awarded $21,000 by the authority after Tan suspended her for stealing food and accused her of taking drugs.

The authority concluded that the process for dismissing Maheno was procedurally unfair, allegations levelled against her were not adequately investigated and she was not given a reasonable opportunity to respond.

Then earlier this month, the ERA awarded the resort’s winery sales manager, Paula Knight, $35,000 after it found she was also unfairly dismissed.

As for Roy’s case, she told NZME she was not confident she would see the money she was owed anytime soon.

Noting the number of times the business had been taken to the ERA, Roy hoped she would be the last.

“The whole thing just made me feel like absolute s***.”

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