Barista at coffee cart wins $6,800 for wrongful termination, employer says ruling unfair

A barista fired after her employer believed she was using a corporate bank card for personal expenses has won a wrongful dismissal claim with the Labor Relations Authority. Photo / 123RF

A coffee cart owner was ordered to pay a fired barista $6,867 after he suspended her over allegations of theft, but never gave her a time or location for a disciplinary meeting.

The process followed by Coffee Shack owner John Everiss that resulted in the dismissal of Chloe-Jane MacLeod was so flawed that it was not what a fair and reasonable employer could have done, a decision of the Labor Relations Authority. [ERA] found.

But Everiss, 80, told Open Justice he thought the result was unfair and said he did not understand why criminal charges related to the case against MacLeod had been dropped.

He was considering going to labor court.

ERA member Claire English said Everiss had failed to prove allegations MacLeod had stolen a business bank card she used to buy goods for the cart, parked in a parking lot in Te Horo, north of Wellington.

MacLeod had only been working at the cart for three weeks when Everiss reviewed spending on the card while on vacation from January 1, 2019 and found that there were more purchases being made on the debit card than he hadn’t foreseen it.

The map was shared between MacLeod and Tony Furze, who ran a nearby hot food truck also owned by Everiss.

It was kept in the Coffee Shack, attached to a hook by the door, with the PIN code written on a post-it note and kept near the card.

MacLeod would bring the map home in the evening and purchase supplies for the next day, while Furze would use it during the day to purchase food truck supplies.

The pair would cash out at the end of each day and Furze would record this in a balance sheet book.

Other workers before MacLeod also used the card this way, as did replacements when MacLeod could not work.

Everiss presented the bank statements to Furze who identified his business purchases which Everiss accepted as valid, according to the ruling.

Furze suggested that MacLeod was responsible for the remaining expenses and after a discussion the couple decided that some of them were not valid business expenses.

“In evidence, it became clear that Mr. Everiss relied almost entirely on Mr. Furze’s accounting to decide which charges were valid business expenses and which charges were invalid,” English wrote.

The day before MacLeod returned to work, Everiss’ son, Brent Everiss, texted MacLeod and said, “No work tomorrow, you’re suspended for further notice.” [sic].

MacLeod replied via text message, asking, “On what grounds and why? Can you get John
to contact me…”

The next day, January 10, John Everiss wrote to MacLeod to say they had launched an investigation into “dishonesty within the company”, specifically the misuse of a corporate credit card.

He said she will be dismissed on full pay while the investigation is ongoing and they would like to meet with her to discuss the findings on January 22. He also raised the prospect of “immediate dismissal”.

At the same time, he complained to the police and it was during a police visit to his home that MacLeod learned of the allegations against her, according to the ruling.

English said MacLeod repeatedly tried to reach Everiss, Furze and Everiss’ daughter-in-law via an email provided in the letter, and got no response.

On the day of the meeting, Furze tried to call MacLeod but dialed the wrong number and he and Everiss ended up discussing the results of the investigation without her.

Two days later, MacLeod hired an attorney and discovered she had been fired.

She raised personal grievances for undue disadvantage in connection with her suspension, wrongful termination, and loss of pay and compensation.

MacLeod pleaded not guilty in district court to three charges brought against her by police, relating to entering a building and using the Coffee Shack Eftpos card.

Two of those charges were dropped and the remaining charge was dismissed because police presented no evidence, English said.

English did not accept Everiss’ argument to the ERA that he had not fired MacLeod because his consistently expressed view up to that point had been that he had no choice but to fire her .

In considering whether the dismissal was justified, English said it was concerning that Everiss did not consider whether other parties may have used the card.

She said real-time bank statements did not show who was using the card or what was purchased.

A CCTV photo of a blonde woman entering a BP petrol station on January 2 about five minutes after using the card was not sufficient to establish guilt and was not available to Everiss when he fired MacLeod.

For these reasons, the dismissal was unjustified, said English.

MacLeod, who represented herself during the process, said the theft allegations had shaken her confidence and reputation because she had always worked “outside the house” in positions that handled money.

English ordered Everiss to pay MacLeod $4,000 for injury and humiliation, $1,605 for wages owed, $133 in vacation pay, $129 in interest, and $4,000 in penalties of which $1,000 would go to MacLeod and $3,000 to the Crown.

Everiss, who started John Everiss Contractors in 1964, told Open Justice that he considered around $5,000 spent on the card to be unjustified and was disappointed with the outcome.

“I feel aggrieved, but what can I do about it? I can’t afford to go to court with $15,000 and have the same garbage against me. »