Tauranga woman awarded $15k despite throwing coffee at co-worker

Coffee. Photo credit: Getty

A Tauranga worker forced to resign after she threw coffee at a co-worker has been awarded more than $15,000 for constructive dismissal.

Annette Williams had been employed by Independent Stevedoring Ltd (ISL) as a straddle driver since 2014 when she entered an argument with her co-worker on April 1, 2017.

In the company's break room, a discussion over straddle machine allocation between Ms Williams and co-worker Priscilla Horne became heated. 

Ms Horne had at the time been buttering her toast and used the knife to point at Ms Williams in what has been described as a "threatening manner".

Following a physical altercation, Ms Williams threw boiling coffee at Ms Horne's face and chest.

Ms Williams then tried to contact ISL's internal operations manager Richard May but was unsuccessful until she was called to a meeting with him the next day.

In the first meeting, Ms Williams provided Mr May with a copy of her statement, and was provided with a limited opportunity to explain her version of events.

The next day she was asked to attend a meeting with Mr May, ISL's operations manager Michael Danen and union representative Carole Greene.

In the meeting, she was told the situation was serious and she had broken company rules, which prohibit staff members from assaulting another.

Following the meeting, Ms Williams was told she would be contacted later that day - and Ms Greene advised her it was likely she would lose her job. She was told she should resign, rather than be fired.

Ms Williams resigned later that day.

The Employment Relations Authority found Ms Williams had been constructively dismissed following the meetings, and a proper process for dismissal was not followed.

The Authority found she could be awarded $19,015.10 for lost wages and $12,000 for compensation, but both these figures were reduced by 50 percent due to Ms Williams' contributing behaviour.

Overall she was awarded $15,507.55. Her request for reinstatement was denied.