Vexatious complainant gets slapped for wonky ‘bum slap’ complaint

A story came out a couple of days ago that shows the problem with our employee grievance industry.

A Hamilton woman who lost a sexual harassment complaint against her former boss after he slapped her bum has been ordered to pay him $5000.

Hamilton woman Ella Newman, 23, will appeal the Employment Relations Authority decision that quashed her sexual harassment claim and the decision to make her pay.

I don’t know who advised her, but this should never have got this far.


Especially when the Herald reported the following comment from ERA member Anna Fitzgibbon.

Authority member Anna Fitzgibbon rejected those claims, calling Ms Newman an unreliable witness and questioning why she did not complain earlier.

It sounds like she just made stuff up and was an ‘unreliable witness’, probably looking for a Christmas bonus or a trip overseas.

If she had such an unreliable claim, you would hope her lawyer would tell her such.

Unfortunately many employees like her use groups like Community Law, often light on lawyers, and assume employers are wrong no matter what. They then stumble along making the matter worse and fail to speak the truth to their client.  

The worst lawyers are the type that believe everything their client says and fail to give them a cold hard slap of reality.

Too often these Community Law-type advocates make the matter worse, enflaming the situation and then running a mile as soon as they actually have to come up with evidence.

They know that the first step in the process is mediation, and mediation is about settling so everyone ‘agrees to disagree’ and the employee walks away with a fat cheque.

It is nothing but legalised blackmail but the government enforces it under the umbrella of ‘good faith’.

This just encourages employees like this and the whole grievance industry to get behind them – and in the case of Community Law they do it with tax payers money.

This particular case was so bad that even the employee friendly/employer hostile Employment Relations Authority saw through it and slapped the complainant with a fine for her trouble.

Unfortunately there will be those who will call this victim blaming, because in their warped world there is no such thing as a vexatious or malicious complainant just making stuff up who trot off to the ERA or the Privacy Commission who will lend them a sympathetic ear.

Hopefully however this will serve as a warning to anyone else who tries this.



– Fairfax, NZ Herald


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  • Nige.

    “Employment relations income” is becoming big bussines for those with their snouts in the legal trough.

    I hope there is accountability for shonkey lawyers who just ‘have a go’ even after coming to the realisation that their client most likely doesn’t have a case.

    • Betty Swallocks

      I noticed that one of the lawyers involved in this case is named “Twaddle” which I thought was totally apt.

      • Mechanical Gear

        That was the lawyer who defended the employer.

        • Betty Swallocks

          Yes, I know, but it’s still an apt name to be associated with this case.

  • Chris EM

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this woman initially saw the bum slap in the way it was intended to be; good natured, then later on realised there could be some easy money made from it, so laid a complaint. Possibly encouraged by friends or relatives.
    Whinging for money is fast becoming an industry.

  • “It is nothing but legalised blackmail but the government enforces it under the umbrella of ‘good faith’.”

    Too true! Plus, when your day finally arrives to attend the ERA “Mediation” the facilitator will remind you of your legal obligations as an officer of the company to discharge all possible adverse possibilities on the company… and would it not be best to settle now before going into mediation? (Be interesting to find out what these “mediators” have by the way of KPI’s regarding “settled at or before mediation”)

    Yep – for a $70 filing fee and a 2-bit flea lawyer working on a “No win – no fee” basis, the ever-changing employment law landscape becomes an absolute minefield for the employer to navigate whilst attempting to “humanise” their business and workplace / (home office) yet at the same time be reminded to be completely “aloof / robotic / uncaring” whilst also being liable and responsible for employee “Stress” also.

    Yeah nah – today’s NZ employment legislation was set up by the previous Labour government trying to rid NZ of the Employment Contracts Act, resulting in a completely uneven playing field for the business/property/asset owner.

    I will not employ staff directly ever again. Hire people on self-employed contracts for service so all the “risk” and accountability depends on them and their ability to perform professionally and consistently… and if they can’t do that – employment legislation that’s more of a straightjacket for the employer should be avoided at all costs.

    Plus it gives the NZLP and unions a huge big 1 finger salute to their tainted, twisted playing field of an employment landscape.

    • Mechanical Gear

      In this case it would be easy to see how settling could backfire. The company could have paid the complainant to go away and ‘agree to disagree’ but in many circles this would be seen as an admission of guilt. Sure, in theory the settlement should be confidential but we all know former employees go around mouthing off and the ERA is mostly powerless to stop it.

  • cows4me

    I slap my girls bums all the time and they have never lodged a complaint.

  • BigDes

    Yep, been there with employees and community law. They totally believed everything they were feed. Luckily we followed the process to the letter and had evidence of such all the way through. We received a letter that a 12 yr old wouldn’t be proud of and replied with evidence, job done.

    • Mechanical Gear

      Lots of them aren’t even lawyers and don’t know what they are getting themselves into.

  • Michael_l_c

    I have done some work on the other side of the fence, helping employees take on a very big employer.
    The rules are simple, follow the rules. If as an employer you don’t follow your own rules, & they are your rules, you are in trouble.
    If the employer has stuffed up sort it out quickly. Recognize what you have done & apologize properly, then sort it out.
    Too many supervisors cover up & bully.
    Most employees want the mess sorted. Some, a few, are mongrels.

  • Nebman

    The first lawyer I ever used was a baby lawyer (a new one) to use her own words. She helped me write out an affidavit of many, many pages that were mostly full of my whinging complaints about wrong doing by the other party.

    Her Boss however was brilliant – came through and looked at the affidavit and ruthlessly culled it with a bright red marker pen. She cut it down to about 2 pages. She turned to me and said “Sometimes people just say bad things about you – Harden the Eff up and get over yourself”. Best advice I’ve ever had. Never forgotten it and use it frequently.