Power imbalances make workplaces toxic

No matter how friendly you may be with your employer, no matter how well you know them, the insecurity and power imbalance created by the lack of an official contract is always going to turn the workplace toxic eventually. A contract gives an employee or contractor security and certainty. It also gives them protection.

Without a contract no matter how good the relationship a serious power imbalance has been created.

A woman who told her boss he could “shove” her job has been awarded $40,000 by the Employments Relations Authority.

Nicole Hannah was working at Quality Consumables where she had an argument with director Allan McCormick over wage arrears.

Hannah’s partner, Marc Johnson, had been friends with McCormick for 33 years.

She started working for him on a part-time basis… in 2009 but did not receive a contract. McCormick told the ERA he didn’t provide her with a written agreement because she “was considered part of the family”.

Hannah was paid for 27.5 hours a week from 2009 to April 2016. In April last year, Hannah told McCormick she believed she was being underpaid as she said she had worked for 30 hours a week over that period.

McCormick contacted the payroll office and asked them to correct her hours to 30 per week. Hannah, however, argued she should be paid arrears for the previous months and years of her employment.
The pair began to have heated debates over the wages which came to a head in June with Hannah telling McCormick he could “shove” her job.

She returned to work the following day when McCormick asked for her resignation in writing. She told him she wasn’t sure if she actually wanted to resign, but he told her it was “too late” and to put it in writing.

The ERA determined McCormick’s company must pay Hannah for the arrears, including holiday pay and interest while also ruling her departure from the company as a constructive dismissal for which she received $7921.50 in lost wages and $8000 as compensation to loss of dignity and injury of feelings.

Penalties were not imposed on Quality Consumables, with the ERA deciding the $40,1119 in total remedies “were sufficient to punish and deter the type of conduct found in this case.”…

– NZ Herald

Some may wonder why it took the employee so long to say anything. The lack of a written contract meant that she was in a weak position and her partner being friends with her boss made her position even more difficult. When things have not been done professionally it is much harder to stand up for yourself as you know that standing up for yourself may cost you your job. It is a huge risk and in this case, although the employee won a pay out she lost her job as a result of speaking up. Is it any wonder that others in similar situation put up with it for so long?


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