Woman in Auckland awarded $25,000 after boss calls her ‘f***ing hopeless’

A woman whose employer told her she was “f***ing hopeless and “f***ing stupid” and was subjected to a number of incidents of workplace bullying has been awarded $25,000 in compensation and lost wages.

The Employment Relations Authority has ruled in favour of Flora Liu, who worked as a quantity surveyor at mechanical building services company Chillex Services Ltd in South Auckland, between January and June last year.

During that time, Liu says she faced unjustified disadvantage and was unjustifiably dismissed due to a number of events that led to her feeling anxious and hurt due to workplace bullying from a senior member of staff.

In a decision released by the ERA, emails from company director Cam Crawford show he did not agree with the way Liu had prepared her reports and asked that they be submitted in a different format – to which Liu responded that there was nothing wrong with them.

The director emailed back: “Absolutely f***ing hopeless Flora. Are you not listening mate?? Are your ears painted on??”

He went on to describe another employee as “that useless lump” before demanding that she “GET THEM ON NOW”. The email copied in a number of managers and a colleague of Liu’s.

An email from Crawford the next day subsequently became one of two events that eventually led to Liu offering a letter of resignation.

The email, which again copied in a number of other staff, told Liu not to “f**k me around today as I am not in a good mood”.

He then seemingly threatened her job and dropped what appeared to be a racist remark; typing the last paragraph out completely in capital letters, which the ERA said effectively screamed at Liu.

“Be plenty of people looking for work at the moment…we are looking for more savings and culling staff numbers is a good place to start so I suggest you get on with it now.

“When done, get me the EMS one pronto – suck off his text and phone calls and PS don’t send me anything you two noodle nuts without the f***ing job numbers on!”

The ERA heard that Liu felt humiliated and deeply hurt by what she saw as a racist and abusive approach by her employer in the email exchanges.

The second event happened on June 4 last year, when staff were back in the office.

Liu said the director yelled at her to go to her manager’s office and referred to her as “f***ing stupid QS”.

Documents show that others in the office watched on and because she felt “too humiliated and distressed” to keep working, she instead sat at her desk crying.

That same day, Liu sent a letter of resignation to the company’s Human Resources manager. However, after a few days off on stress leave and seeking advice, she asked that the letter not be accepted, but instead offered a formal complaint.

The company, however, replied that it had chosen to honour her earlier letter of resignation – and Liu eventually took the case to the ERA.

'Employee should not be told by their boss they are f***king useless' – ERA

In his decision, ERA member Michael Loftus said it is clear that Liu was the victim of unjustifiable and inappropriate abuse and she felt angst, hurt and humiliated as a result.

He went on to acknowledged that case law recognises the concept of a robust workplace, but that such profanity and abuse targeted at a specific person was unacceptable.

“This is the 21st Century and the idea such behaviour remains acceptable is a concept now consigned to history,” Loftus wrote.

“A person should not be subjected to such behaviour and abuse in the workplace.

“There can be no justification for the content of the emails…with allegations of being ‘f***in’ hopeless’, emphasised comments which effectively scream at the recipient and threats of dismissal.

“Similarly, an employee should not be told by their boss they are ‘f***ing useless’ in an angry way.”

Liu was awarded a total of $5232 gross as recompense for wages lost as a result of the dismissal and a further $20,000 as compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.

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