Criminal conviction should not compromise my job - Hallwright

Guy Hallwright wants reinstatement as a research analyst at Forsyth Barr

Guy Hallwright's ability to work as a senior research analyst should not be compromised by his criminal conviction, the employment watchdog has heard.

Hallwright has taken investment firm Forsyth Barr to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) seeking reinstatement after a "humiliating" dismissal in September.

The one-and-a-half-day hearing before ERA member Rosemary Mongahan wrapped up yesterday afternoon.

Forsyth Barr dismissed Hallwright on September 19, almost two years after an altercation in which he ran down and injured a man - resulting in him being found guilty by jury at the Auckland District Court of wounding with disregard.

Hallwright continued to work for Forsyth Barr as a senior research analyst until just after he was sentenced to 250 hours' community service and ordered to pay reparations of $20,000 in September.

He faced a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment.

Forsyth Barr dismissed Hallwright for misconduct on the grounds his conviction had brought the firm into disrepute and compromised his ability to carry out his duties as a senior analyst.

Hallwright is seeking reinstatement and is claiming lost earnings from Forsyth Barr from the date of dismissal to the date of reinstatement - with one-month deducted for a vacation he took recently.

Forsyth Barr paid Hallwright an annual salary of $275,000.

Lost remuneration should also take into account an annual bonus, Hallwright's lawyer Kathryn Beck said.

In closing submissions to the ERA, Ms Beck said Hallwright's dismissal was unjustified and he had suffered hurt, humiliation and financial loss as a result.

"This is a case where a high level of compensation is warranted," Ms Beck said.

"The way it was handled was humiliating," Ms Beck said. "He has been extremely embarrassed and upset by the dismissal and the way he has been treated."

His letter of dismissal, delivered to his desk by the company's chief operating officer, had come as a surprise, and the way it was handled was unkind extraordinarily inappropriate, said Ms Beck.

Hallwright was regarded as one of the leading investment analysts and was head-hunted by Forsyth Barr, she said.

"He was a loyal and faithful employee throughout his employment.

"In the end, Guy was desparately let down. A manager with whom he had little contact gave him an envelope. They simply delivered the envelope and left. Neil [Paviour-Smith - Forsyth Barr's managing director] didn't ring to say it was coming.

"There was no need for it to be done like that."

Ms Beck said Forsyth Barr was not open-minded to Hallwright's ongoing employment  and was determined the conviction meant the end of the relationship.

"If the company's view was in the event of conviction, Guy's employment was at risk, then it should have said so, and it never did."

Any concern Forsyth Barr had about Hallwright's conviction could be resolved through alternatives such as preventing him from being a public face of the firm, or taking his name off research material, Ms Beck said.

Hallwright had seen  a recruitment agent and had applied for four positions, but had not heard back on the status of his applications.

His evidence to the ERA was that he was concerned about finding employment at his age (60). He was aware someone in a similar situation to him had been job hunting for more than a year.

Ms Beck argued Hallwright's motoring incident did not bring Forsyth Barr into disrepute and media coverage of Hallwright's trial was never critical of Forsyth Barr.

Hallwright's conviction had nothing to do with his job.

Any loss of business at the firm as a result of Hallwright's conviction had not been prooved, Ms Beck said.

"We accept Guy has been brought into disrepute but the employer has not."

Forsyth Barr's lawyer Peter Churchman said Hallwright had been put on notice, ahead of his conviction, that there were potential issues with his ongoing employment.

Forsyth Barr did not claim to have lost a particular client or missed out on new business as a result of Hallwright's conviction.

And his dismissal was not to do with his ability to "crunch the numbers" as a research analyst.

"The issue is what perception the public might reasonably take from his conviction of a Crimes Act offence," Mr Churchman said.

Part of Hallwright's role was to interact publically and in a one-on-one capacity with Forsyth Barr's clients.

He had been given the presumption of innocence and remained working ahead of the trial.

But Hallwright's reputation, and by association the firm's, had been damaged as a result of the conviction, Mr Churchman said.

Forsyth Barr had considered reputational damage to the firm and made a call on that and it was within the bounds of what a reasonable employer would do.

"We can not get away from the fact that this was not a trafffic offence. It was a charge under the Crimes Act - one of the most serious charges there can be," Mr Churchman said.

"Had he not engaged in the activity which the jury concluded constituted an offence of injury with reckless disregard, there would have been no trial, there would have been no conviction and there would have been no publicity,"

"It may have been a momentary lapse of [Hallwright's] judgment, but it was something the average member of the public would see as distasteful."

The ERA heard Forsyth Barr staff heard about Hallwright's road rage incident on the Whale Oil blog site.

Hallwright says he phoned Forsyth Barr managing director Neil Paviour-Smith to tell him himself.

That is disputed by Mr Paviour-Smith, who said he called Hallwright himself.

Forsyth Barr called two employees to give evidence today – Auckland manager Chris Lambert and head of private client services Shane Edmond.

Mr Lambert said he had felt “compromised” about Hallwright’s role after the conviction, in the sense he was not able to put him in front of clients.

Mr Edmond told the ERA there had been no problems with Hallwright's work.

"The work, no. The name on the document, yes."

Hallwright's wife apologises to Mr Paviour-Smith

Earlier in the hearing, Hallwright’s wife Juliet Hallwright apologised to Mr Paviour-Smith for insulting him in a private email to Hallwright.

Mr Paviour-Smith had seen the email, in which Mrs Hallwright had referred to him as a “pompous twat”.

“I’m really sorry. I was really upset,” Mrs Hallwright said.

She later said if Hallwright was to be reinstated, she would understand if Mr Paviour-Smith did not want her to attend work functions.

Mrs Hallwright told the hearing she believed there was a difference between integrity and reputation.

Although she had said in her letter to the sentencing judge that Hallwright had “lost his reputation”, she did not accept that her husband’s conviction under the Crimes Act was likely to impact on his integrity as an analyst.

Her husband had demonstrated integrity throughout his trial, she said.

“The reputational damage was media-driven and outside of his control.”

Surreptitious recording debated

Before proceedings got underway on Tuesday, ERA member Rosemary Mongahan had to decide whether a transcript of a taped conversation between Hallwright and Mr Paviour-Smith could be introduced as evidence.

Mr Hallwright taped a meeting with Mr Paviour Smith, where it's understood his employment with the firm was discussed, without Mr Paviour-Smith's knowledge.

Mr Paviour-Smith said he  wanted the transcript excluded because it was a without prejudice discussion that should not be brought into the proceedings.

Ms Mongahan decided the transcript was inadmissable because it could not be separated from a ruling the ERA had previously made.

She said she was concerned it had taken so long for the transcript to come to light.

"This kind of recording is made too often and really, it is unaceptable.

"The fact of the recording should have been disclosed at the time."

gbond@nbr.co.nz

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