$34,000 fine for Auckland company

Auckland based Propellor Property Investments, run by well-known Nikki Connors, has been ordered by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) to pay $34,000 to an administrator for unjustified dismissal. This is not the first case of its type to occur, and it could have been avoided if proper process was followed.

Key points of the case include:

  • Propellor claimed the employee, Cherie Elsegood was provided a generous remuneration package for her administrative job – $70,000 annual salary, a VW car and free accommodations for two years. The employee was also able to claim expenses for certain business items.

  • From June to December 2016 the employee failed to submit claims, and when she did, the receipts included items such as petrol, mobile phone, food and liquor that she was not entitled to claim for.

  • According to Nikki Connors, she was upset about the employee's fraudulent expense claims when the company had treated her so well. The employee denies these allegations.

  • After initially failing to contact the employee for an explanation, Nikki Connors sent a text to the employee (who is her cousin) stating "I think by your silence and unwillingness to work through this you have now made a decision that will define the rest of your life. There is no point coming back to work and if I was you I would find somewhere else to live immediately.”

  • The employee said she had not been given the opportunity to discuss the matter, and took the text message to mean she was sacked, and was shocked and humiliated by the accusations.

  • The ERA agreed with Cherie Elsegood, that Nikki Connors’ text message meant she was being dismissed and told to move out of the apartment. This method, the ERA said, was unjustified.

  • The employee was awarded $15,000 for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings, $14,583 in lost wages, $1,679 in agreed unpaid expenses and $3,000 for a bonus that was owed to her.

If your business is involved in a situation where you believe a staff member has breached a company policy, done something wrong, or you want to consider termination, it is recommended that you gain expert advice. Please contact HR associate, who can assist with these types of situations and reduce your company's risk of a large payout and damage to your business's reputation.