1 May 2013

Female truck driver awarded $63,000 over dismissal

8:11 pm on 1 May 2013

A female truck driver has been awarded about $63,000 in compensation after being bullied, sexually harassed and unjustifiably dismissed.

Rachel Harrington resigned from Cromwell-based transport company Thunderbird One Ltd in 2008 just four months after she was hired.

Ms Harrington claimed that she was inappropriately touched by her supervisor and threatened after reporting the incidents.

The Employment Relations Authority in awarding the compensation described her time at the company as "short and fraught".

The authority said company director Justin Marshall threatened Ms Harrington with disciplinary action when she complained of sexual harassment, she was told to work longer hours than the legal maximum and subjected to taunts and abuse.

Representatives from Thunderbird One Ltd failed to appear at the Employment Relations Authority hearing.

The company was ordered to pay $38,243 to Ms Harrington for lost wages and $25,000 for humiliation and loss of dignity.

Ms Harrington's lawyer Angeline Boniface told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme the crunch came when her client was forced to handle an 800kg load because the truck didn't have a hoist and injured herself, ending up in hospital.

Ms Boniface said the decision shows employers that women must be treated fairly.

"That's a very, very clear message to employers that if you're in a male-dominated field, you do need to treat women with respect and that you cannot simply brush allegations of sexual harassment to one side."

Ms Boniface said Ms Harrington pursued the case in the hope of sending a message to employers.