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Company fined after 'short skirt' comment

21:30 Wed May 2 2012
AAP
A taxi company's board member wilfully spread rumours about wanting to replace its marketing manager, an employment hearing found
A taxi company's board member wilfully spread rumours about wanting to replace its marketing manager, an employment hearing found (Thinkstock)

A Christchurch marketing manager who discovered her employers were considering ditching her with "a younger woman in a short skirt" has been awarded $20,000.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) ordered Blue Star Taxis to pay Maree Humphries $10,000 for failing to consult her about their decision to make her redundant, and $10,000 for wilfully spreading rumours about her proposed dismissal earlier.

Ms Humphries said she was told by her boss Bob Wilkinson in late April or early May 2011 that she should start looking for a new job, and a few days later one of the drivers told her, in front of Mr Wilkinson, that the board had wanted to get rid of her.

But a few after that Mr Wilkinson told her he'd successfully convinced the board not to dismiss her.

About this time he showed her a letter he was writing to the board chairman, in which he relayed a conversation he'd had with a driver who was told by a board member "that the plan was to replace her with a younger woman in a short skirt that only worked three days a week".

Ms Humphries' job was retained and she was given a letter in June 2011 advising her of a pay rise, but a month later she was made redundant as the company was losing money in the wake of the earthquakes.

ERA member David Appleton said he believed the redundancy was genuine because of the money the company was losing, rather than a sham as Ms Humphries said.

But he said she wasn't consulted properly about the redundancy, and the rumours beforehand about her dismissal were caused by a board member leaking information to drivers, which a reasonable employer would not have done.