Is the Kiwi male a workplace wuss? Hurt feelings, being asked to work weekends, and other employment woes
If I ever have a son in New Zealand, I imagine he would punch his way out of the womb, assume the scrum position, then ask where his shotgun is because it’s duck hunting season in the Waikato.
At least that’s how I imagined a male Kiwi is born: tough, macho, hair already growing on his ape-like chest.
But after months of reading Employment Relations Authority decisions, I’m getting the impression that today’s males in New Zealand are more like the Village People version of Macho Man, rather than the Sir Colin Meads of the old days.
This week, more authority decisions trickled out with workers claiming their employers hurt their feelings or, even worse, actually asking them to work.
Now I’m pretty sure my first editor ate cigarettes for breakfast and nails for dessert. It was 10 years ago but I still remember his hatred for humanity and the bloodlust for junior reporters that emanated from his desk.
After a hiding from him, I always waited until I got home to cry with a bottle of vodka and in the comfort of my own bed, which is the proper way to deal with workplace stress.
But I never, ever, considered contacting an employment lawyer seeking advice on my hurt feelings.
Unfortunately for employers, the trend in employment law is moving in the opposite direction.
An analysis by the Employers and Manufacturers Association found 67%, or 245, of 366 personal grievance awards made by the authority in 2012 were in favour of employees.
That’s up 13% on 2011, when 201 of 371 claims favoured employees.
On average, the authority awarded more compensation to employees for hurt feelings and humiliation – up $634, or 13%, from the year prior to $5610.
Here are just a few examples from this week.
Labourer Craig Cardwell was awarded $1000 after seeking $5000 “for the shock and devastating effect upon his relationship” his dispute caused with former employer Rob Gold Builders.
Really? Because the guy quit his job on his own accord and the dispute arose over his final paycheck. Technically, there was no longer a relationship.
The authority found “there was little if any evidence supporting more than a minimal award for hurt and humiliation. An award of $1000 is appropriate.”
Minimal is $1000? When I think of minimal, I think more like maybe a Canadian penny or some other worthless coin at the bottom of my purse leftover from my last holiday.
Over in Napier, butcher Kevin Hodgson claims he was unjustifiably dismissed by Downey’s City Butchery and sought an unspecified amount for hurt and humiliation for the way he was dismissed.
By the way, Mr Hodgson was very clear to his employer that he didn’t want to work Saturdays or Friday evenings, an increasingly busy time for the small, family-owned business.
After Mr Hodgson gave “modest evidence about the effect the termination of his employment had on him,” he was awarded $3000 for his personal grievance.
And my favourite this week comes from the former CFO of Broadlands Finance, Brian Capper, who says he was bullied and given too much work.
Like many finance companies, Broadlands took a bashing during the global financial crisis. Whether or not he was given more work is a moot point.
During and after the crisis, no matter which organisation you worked for in the world, you were probably asked to pull up your big-boy Batman underwear and work harder.
Instead, Mr Capper took sick leave and never returned to the office for his job.
The Employment Relations Authority dismissed his allegations.