A New Zealand Fonterra employee who was dismissed for performing the Harlem Shake dance while at work has had his position permanently reinstated.
Craig Flynn was fired last year after his employer discovered videos of himself and six others performing the Harlem Shake while working at Fonterra’s Takanini plant.
According to stuff.co.nz, the dairy giant said Flynn had put himself and others at risk by "dancing with a shovel between his legs, hosing water where another employee was dancing, and splashing a pallet endangering himself and others", but Flynn argued the actions were simply “horseplay” and that his dismissal was unfair.
In June last year, Flynn and a colleague, Henry Taufua, successfully appealed the company’s decision, with the Employment Relations Authority arguing that there wasn’t suitable grounds for dismissal.
"Their individual actions do not seem factually similar to the facts alleged in the respondent's [Fonterra's] authorities. Hosing an area of floor then cleaning the water up prior to employees dancing around indicates preventative steps to ensure employee safety. Falling or tipping the paper trolley may have resulted in minimal (if any) injury or damage or none at all," the ERA stated.
It ruled that Fonterra’s claim that the Harlem Shake re-enactment was dangerous was contradicted by videos showing all the employees wearing hairnets or head gear, with the exception of two employees wearing buckets on their heads. Water sprayed by Flynn was also cleaned up before the dancing took place.
Flynn’s reinstatement has now been made permanent, however Taufua’s future at the company is unclear.
ERA member Tania Tetiaha said a reasonable employer couldn’t have found that Flynn’s conduct justified dismissal, adding that Fonterra didn’t follow fair process in the dismissal. Despite this, the ERA didn’t awards costs because Flynn’s behaviour was “blameworthy.”