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$20k costs may follow job loss

A former Wairarapa District Health Board [DHB] employee may need to pay $20,000 to Te Whatu Ora after unsuccessfully challenging her dismissal in the Employment Court.

Amanda Turner was dismissed in 2021 after “posting anti-vaccine information on Facebook”, according to an Employment Court judgement.

In 2022, Turner lost a challenge to the Employment Relations Authority.

She then lost her challenge in the Employment Court last year.

A Court of Appeal hearing date is now set for March 18.

If unsuccessful at the Court of Appeal, Turner will be required to pay $20,000 to cover some of the legal costs incurred by Te Whatu Ora.

Employment Court Judge JC Holden said that at the time of her Facebook posts, Turner was a well-respected Kahukura [palliative care] nurse that other staff looked up to.

The court judgement said the posts had caused staff at the aged residential care facility to question whether they should be vaccinated against Covid-19.

“The posts were not considered or balanced discussions but involved memes and strongly worded statements or allegations against individuals and groups.

“For example, on one post Ms Turner simply writes: “They say its [sic] safe Ha!” and then shares a post from another person saying they had experienced a rash or hives after receiving the vaccine.

“In another post, Ms Turner attaches a post from the Government’s Unite Against Covid-19 page and writes: “The injection is not ‘free’ the taxpayers of NZ ARE paying for it! I’m glad the word voluntary is used, so we can decline the injection.”

At the time of her posts, Turner had 86 Facebook friends.

According to the court decision, Turner said the DHB unjustifiably suspended her in a “procedurally unfair manner” and had no reason to subsequently dismiss her.

She also said the DHB acted in a discriminatory manner and ignored her rights to privacy and to freedom of expression.

Judge Holden ruled in favour of Te Whatu Ora in September and then released her costs judgement last month.

“Should Ms Turner’s proceedings in the Court of Appeal fail, and absent any agreement between the parties, costs are to be paid by Ms Turner to Te Whatu Ora within 30 days of the result from the Court of Appeal being advised to the parties,” she said.

“If Ms Turner succeeds in the Court of Appeal, costs will need to be revisited in any event.”

The Wairarapa DHB, now Te Whatu Ora, was Turner’s employer and was governed by a board that consisted of elected members.

Te Whatu Ora said the actual legal costs incurred in defending the proceedings significantly exceeded the scale costs it is claiming. – NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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