A New Zealand nursing home has been ordered to pay almost $19,000 (£9,338) in compensation to a former employee who was fired for taking a $1 (49p) bag of crisps, after a tribunal ruled she was wrongfully dismissed.
The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) determined on Tuesday that Birchleigh Management Services Ltd was “unnecessarily severe” when it dismissed Kaye Gillan in July 2016, according to the New Zealand Herald.
On 17 June Ms Gillian, a caregiver at the facility since 2004, took the crisps from a cupboard used to store refreshments for residents. After opening the packet she discovered the crisps were stale and threw them in the bin.
Her actions resulted in her being hauled into a meeting with Birchleigh Management Services, where she admitted taking the crisps but denied dishonest intent.
Birchleigh — which has strict rules regarding the security of residents’ property — said Ms Gillan was guilty of gross misconduct and terminated her employment despite the fact she had received a favourable performance review in March 2016.
The employment tribunal said there was a significant difference between Ms Gillan taking a small bag of chips and any risk of her taking a resident’s personal possessions or money and awarded her $18,750 (£9,214.65) in compensation.
Delivering their verdict, the ERA stated that "such an employer could not have concluded, in all the circumstances, that the essential foundation of trust and confidence in Mrs Gillan had been undermined to such a significant degree to warrant her dismissal".
Ms Gillian, who found work with a different employer shortly after her dismissal, will also be reimbursed for lost wages and legal costs. She told the tribunal that the stress of her dismissal severely affected her mental health.
Birchleigh is reportedly considering whether it will appeal the decision.
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