A fishy tale
We all know that recreational fishers guard their “spot x” jealously. Apparently, the captains of commercial fishing boats are just as secretive when they suspect one of their crew is telling competitors where to fill their nets.
A former employee of Sealord has been awarded over $80,000.00 in lost wages, compensation for humiliation and interest following his dismissal by Sealord. The dismissal followed the suspicion of the captain that the employee, Mr Pickering, had been drinking with a rival boat’s captain and provided him with the coordinates of rich fishing grounds. The case highlights two important issues at the start and end of an employment relationship.
Contractor vs. employee
The first issue the Authority had to consider was whether Mr Pickering was an employee of Sealord or an independent contractor engaged by a separate company. While the Authority considered all the features of the relationship, the main stumbling block for Sealord was that they did not have a written contract setting out the nature of the relationship. In the absence of a clear document, and with all the other factors being largely neutral, the Authority found that the relationship was one of employment, in line with a short-term agreement from more than three years earlier.
During the course of Mr Pickering’s employment a number of issues developed between him and the captain and other crew of his boat. It was suspected that Mr Pickering was slacking off, leaving work to other crew members, had a poor attitude and, perhaps most importantly, had told the captain of a rival company’s boat where the Sealord boat had been finding their fish.
How we can help
Jackson Russell is experienced in dealing with all aspects of employment law. We regularly assist employers to ensure that their documentation is in order before engaging employees. We also assist employers and employees who are faced with an employment relationship problem or a dismissal situation. If legal advice is sought before important decisions are made, you can often avoid expensive results like Sealord’s.
The information contained in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended as legal advice. It is important that you seek legal advice that is specific to your circumstances.
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Glenn Finnigan, PARTNER
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