Former Aoraki manager awarded $50,000 damages

A former Aoraki senior manager has been awarded $50,000 by the Employment Court for the manner in which he was dismissed last year.

A former Aoraki senior manager, made redundant along with more than 90 staff last year, has been awarded $50,000 by the Employment Court, which found that he suffered trauma and severe injury to his feelings, caused by the way he was treated in the dismissal process.

The Court notes in its judgement that there have been few, if any, orders under the relevant section of the law which have exceeded $50,000.

Colin McGavin has also sought compensation for lost salary for a period of up to three years and compensation for the loss of future benefits. More than $500,000 in total was being sought. The Court awarded four months' salary, totalling $37,688.

Other damages sought were rejected, the Court finding that there were faults on both sides. Costs were reserved.

McGavin had claimed that he had been unjustifiably dismissed. He had also brought a claim for wrongful dismissal but that was abandoned.

The judgement notes that it was common ground that there were pressing financial constraints which required Aoraki to undertake a major restructuring, as a result of which a substantial proportion of its staff were made redundant.

It also refers to "some 32 persons" who have commenced personal grievance proceedings. Computerworld understands the McGavin hearing was the first of these proceedings to go to Court.

An expert witness told the Court that there was a strong perception in the market that employees over the age of 50 were no longer useful in the world of business, particularly in the information technology field where there was an emphasis on younger persons, who were seen to be more energetic and adept.

Another expert witness said anyone over the age of 50, with extensive experience, and who is let go from a senior management positon with a major computer firm, has little, if any, prospect of re-establishing themselves in a comparable position. "Older persons are perceived as dinosaurs unable to adapt to rapidly changing technology," he said.

The Court concluded that the overwhelming effect of the evidence was that a person of McGavin's age, long service, levels of skill and experience in a narrow field was, in the present state of the IT market, unlikey to find a position at anything like a comparable level of remuneration in the city in which he had his home and family.

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