An Auckland law firm has been ordered to pay damages to a 72-year-old former employee after he was found to have been unfairly dismissed in 2014.
Aurora Law Limited (ALL) will pay Kerry Stace $60,576 for lost wages and $7,000 for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to his feelings.
Stace was a former partner at law firm von Strurmer Ringer which was acquired by ALL principal and director Mandy Rusk in 2014. In April of that year, Stace became a consultant solicitor at ALL.
However, in August of that year, he was dismissed after Rusk discussed with him concerns about his behaviour.
An ALL concern was that the senior lawyer was acting as a notary public and fees from this work were kept off ALL’s books.
Another ALL concern which was indicated in a letter from Rusk to Stace before his dismissal said the ALL principal knew Stace was accessing “sex related websites” which are “highly inappropriate” for a law firm.
In the decision by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), Stace’s work as a notary was deemed not under his employment duties and therefore not part of the law firm’s business.
The ERA also said that there was no evidence that proves Stace was visiting “sex related websites” at work. He only visited social media and dating sites, which he did not keep a secret, as he has recently become single.
ALL’s actions that ended its relationship with Stace “were unjustified,” the ERA ruled.