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The Business Advisory Blog

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Ross Henderson
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Well if that's your attitude you can f*** off now': Apprentice claims boss's rant meant he was fired 

An apprentice electrician who claimed his boss told him to "f***-off now" during a heated argument said the outburst meant he had been fired.

Rafe Fannin filed an unjustified dismissal claim with the Employment Relations Authority saying he suffered hurt and humiliation with Whangarei company Liddington Electrical. The former teacher worked for the company from August to November 2018 and said the expletives came during a disagreement about his previous criminal convictions for fraud and identity theft — and whether he had disclosed them during his job interview. 

Fannin told the Employment Relations Authority he was never asked about criminal convictions during the interview but Liddington, whose company has sensitive contracts with Government departments, said he asks all prospective employees. He told the Authority Fannin answered the question with a "No, all sweet Bro." It wasn't until months later, when Fannin was to sign an employment agreement, he told Liddington there was a problem with signing the agreement because he had "minor criminal convictions." Liddington told the Authority he was shocked because he had specifically asked Fannin whether he had criminal convictions when he interviewed him. He was told that he had none.

That evening Liddington did an internet search of Fannin's name and discovered his convictions were not minor, but serious. Liddington said he asked Fannin about the convictions the next day and Fannin attempted to underplay the severity, claiming they were "just credit card fraud". Fannin said he attempted to come to an arrangement with Liddington whereby he would voluntarily resign if Liddington agreed to sign off his remaining job units. This meant he could complete his apprenticeship and set up his own business as an electrician. Liddington refused Fannin's request with the argument ending when Liddington said: "Well if that is your attitude you can f*** off now." Fannin took this to mean he had been dismissed.

Liddington denied swearing and disputed Fannin's claims. He said Fannin had serious criminal convictions which he failed to disclose at the job interview when asked. When Liddington became aware of the criminal convictions, Fannin attempted to negotiate an exit from Liddington Electrical in a manner that Liddington considered amounted to blackmail. Liddington said Fannin resigned before he was able to properly consider the situation.

Fannin said he suffered hurt and humiliation as a result of his dismissal. He also accused a friend of Liddington of distributing pamphlets in his neighbourhood about him which he considered to be defamatory. He sought compensation for the hurt and humiliation he said he suffered.

The Authority also found that during their period of investigation Fannin's sister sent Liddington's lawyer "an improper communication". The letter referred to defamation and threatened to file a suit with the Human Rights Tribunal asking for $200,000 in compensatory remedies for damages from Liddington. The letter stated: "This claim and the one against Liddington Electrical will be dropped if Mr Fannin receives $50,000 from Liddington Electrical by 15th November. "Please notify your client of this offer. He has seven days to accept."

The Authority considered the letter to be "an attempt blackmail Mr Liddington". "Whether or not the threat did amount to blackmail is not a matter for the Authority to determine, it is a criminal matter," the Authority said. The Authority found Mr Rafe Fannin was not dismissed but he voluntarily resigned from his employment. It stated: "He does not have an employment relationship problem."

HR Contracting comments

  1. Obvious – don’t ever tell anyone to f... o... 
  2. Do proper background checking as part of your pre-selection process
  3. Keep a list of standard interview questions – a checklist — and sign these off with each interview
  4. Align your application form and employment agreement to include the ability to dismiss for false disclosure.

For any further guidance on employment matters, please call Ross Henderson on 027 2940301 or email him.

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