4 Jul 2017

Bullied kindergarten teacher awarded $100k

7:43 am on 4 July 2017

A North Island kindergarten teacher has received nearly $100,000 for workplace bullying and unjustified dismissal.

A file photo shows bright yellow chairs in a kindergarten or pre-school.

The teacher was awarded 17 months wage reimbursement and $15,000 compensation. Photo: 123RF

The Employment Relations Authority has awarded her $15,000 in hurt and humiliation compensation and 17 months in wage reimbursement for losing her job when she refused to return to work under her bullying manager.

Allan Halse, teacher's advocate and director of CultureSafe New Zealand, said it was an unprecedented payout, at four times the usual sum awarded.

"Normally, the average amount given if you win at the authority is about $6000 for hurt and humiliation cases and a maximum of three months' wage reimbursement."

In March 2015, the teacher made a written complaint of bullying against her manager and by agreement was placed on paid special leave while an investigation took place.

Her complaint was upheld and the head teacher was disciplined.

Ruling sends 'stern warning'

Mr Halse said his client was reluctant to return to work as the manager refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing and was not prepared to apologise.

He said the Kindergarten Association told the woman that if she wanted to return to work she must do so under their conditions or it would be taken as her resignation.

Mr Halse said the authority's ruling sent a stern warning to employers to provide safe working environments.

The Employment Relations Authority has not published the final determination, which was handed down in May.

Mr Halse criticised the authority for taking so long.

"It should have only taken days to put up, not months.

"The delay in publishing the determination is actually preventing access to justice for not only our clients but all other workplace bullying victims being represented by unions and lawyers," Mr Halse said.

"This precedent will give some encourage to people who have been bullied in the workplace."

The authority said it was an internal administrative matter and there was no specific timeframe on when the final determination must be uploaded to the employment law database.

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