Case study: Wrongful dismissal

30 July 2020

A forklift operator who told his boss to go f*** himself has been awarded a further $7400 after earlier receiving $5600 for wrongful dismissal.

Ian Gabites worked at Carter Holt Harvey Wood Products in Richmond, near Nelson. On 26 November last year, Mr Gabites’ acting supervisor asked the forklift operator if he’d finished a job he was asked to do. Mr Gabites responded with: “Go f*** yourself,” according to an Employment Relations Authority decision. Two disciplinary meetings followed. Mr Gabites was sacked on December 6 for using “threatening language” towards the supervisor. Mr Gabites said he was unjustifiably fired and the language used was “meant in fun.” In May, the Employment Relations Authority said the supervisor mentioned nothing in a written complaint about the language being threatening.

The authority said a fair and reasonable employer should have given Mr Gabites a written warning, to make it clear saying “go f*** yourself” was unacceptable and would result in serious consequences if used again. Mr Gabites said he enrolled with four temping agencies and became a weed-whacker and recycling truck worker after he was sacked.

In May, the authority awarded Mr Gabites $5600 for humiliation, loss of dignity and hurt feelings.

Authority member Helen Doyle said Mr Gabites also deserved three months’ lost wages. The authority didn’t have enough evidence in May to decide what this amounted to so Ms Doyle advised both parties to figure this out. The parties were unsuccessful in doing so but in a new decision, Ms Doyle ordered Carter Holt to pay Mr Gabites $4387.54.

The forklift operator would have been awarded more but his payout was cut by 20 per cent because Ms Doyle said, “He did not need to and should not have said what he did.”

Ms Hoyle decided on $3071.56, for costs and a filing fee.

If you feel you have been subject to a wrongful dismissal, we urge you to contact us immediately, in confidence.