ERA Rules Petrol Station Manager Unfairly Dismissed

ERA rules petrol station manager should be paid more than $20k after being unfairly dismissed

By Brianna Mcilraith
Feb 22 2022

A service station manager has been awarded more than $20,000 after she was dismissed for telling people the business was going to close.

Marcella Mumm had been the manager at BP Motueka, operated by Stevens Automotive since 2018.

But the Employee Relations Authority (ERA) found she was unfairly dismissed by her employer in June 2020.

Mumm’s dismissal followed a meeting held with staff and the sole director of Stevens Automotive, Brett Stevens, and the company accountant, Robin Whalley.

Stevens said in his written and oral evidence that in the period 2019 through to 2020 the company’s financial situation was deteriorating due to the impacts of Covid-19 lockdown, and the unmanned fuel site NPD opening nearby.

Discussions took place with BP regarding pricing. Whalley said in evidence that BP made a few offers but, in his view, none would assist Stevens Automotive to any large degree. It was decided that a meeting should be held with staff to let them know of the company’s financial situation.

Mumm and Stevens spoke before the meeting was held, and Mumm claimed she was told by Stevens the business was closing down. Stevens denied this.

Mumm also spoke with Whalley and claimed he told her that the company was insolvent and would cease trading on July 31, 2020, which Whalley also denied.


Stevens and Whalley’s evidence was that what was presented at the meeting was the worst-case scenario rather than July 31 being a definitive date for closure.

Another employee agreed it was discussed the business was closing on that date, while another disagreed.

Mumm then contacted other staff who were not present at the meeting, Westpac bank and the company’s main supplier BP, to tell them of the closure, and thank them for their support during her employment.

Shealso mentioned the closure to customers, some suppliers in the shop and possibly tellers at the bank.


The information was considered to be confidential, but Mumm claimed she was not aware of that.

The company’s lawyer, Simon England, stated in an email that the company considered Mumm’s actions were a gross breach of her duties to the company in terms of confidentiality and in respect of the email to the bank. It felt it was a clear attempt to damage the trading ability of the company and its reputation.

It was set out that at that point in time the company considered her actions to be so serious that they would result in the immediate termination of her employment.

A disciplinary meeting was held between Stevens, Mumm and England before she was dismissed for the serious misconduct, with what Stevens believed was malicious intent to undermine the company.

But the authority said the process was unfair “and not in a minor way”, because full and fair investigation was not undertaken.

Stevens needed to maintain an open mind to be able to genuinely consider explanations Mumm advanced but authority member Helen Doyle said she could not be satisfied that the investigation was conducted with an open mind and an absence of pre-determination

Mumm was also not given the opportunity to comment on further information England obtained from the bank manager and Whalley after the disciplinary meeting.

Mumm said she suffered financial difficulties as a result of the dismissal and had to take a mortgage holiday. In the small town where she lived she said that she heard some rumours about why she had lost her role that were hurtful.

Stevens Automotive was ordered to pay $9375 to Mumm for lost wages, and $11,250 for compensation.

Click to read the article.

Back to Articles