$30K Awarded to CFO for Challenging Her Boss

Bianca Von Keisenberg started working as a CFO at Alexander Group Media in January 2018. Despite having no formal accounting qualifications, she was employed and given the responsibility of invoicing clients, credit management, payroll, and accounts payable and receivable.

Within the first three months of her employment with the Alexander Group Media, a newly formed company, issues started to surface including cash flow problems, late wage payments and with Von Keisenberg’s behaviour.

In March, a colleague complained about Von Keisenberg's attitude. Despite being made aware of the issue no formal disciplinary action was taken against her.

When Von Keisenberg raised her concerns with Dean Alexander about unpaid wages, he deposited $2,000 into the company bank account so she could make the outstanding wage payments.

In May, Von Keisenberg and a colleague, each complained about the other's behaviour with the colleague blaming Von Keisenberg for her late wages.

The following month, Alexander was upset with the way Von Keisenberg had dealt with a new client after she rang them demanding four months' fees of $15,000 be paid in advance. She also slipped up on sending that same client invoices and twice had to be prompted.

By June, other staff had begun complaining about Von Keisenberg's behaviour, including unreasonable requests in regard to invoices, her "hostile up and down mood" and being "spoken to like … garbage".

Things came to a head on June 22, when Von Keisenberg confronted Alexander about having insufficient funds to pay the staff wages. Alexander dismissed her concerns.

Von Keisenberg and Alexander had a further disagreement about his drawings from the company account. She suggested he have a salary and no longer make drawings.

The matter escalated to such a point that Alexander told her to "get the f... out".

When she walked away, he followed her then stopped and said: "You're f.....g redundant". "I'll do it myself."

Following that statement, Von Keisenberg believed she had been dismissed.

Two days later Alexander sent Von Keisenberg a letter to her personal email address terminating her employment without notice.

The letter included numerous accusations such as breaches of her employment agreement, failure to carry out reasonable requests, engaging in behaviour that endangered the mental health and safety of employees, malicious complaints, breach of confidentiality, external transfer of confidential data and conduct that deeply impaired day-to-day running of the business.

Alexander stated the actions amounted to serious misconduct and so the decision was taken to terminate her employment effective immediately.

At the recent Employment Relations Authority hearing, Von Keisenberg's claims of an unjustified disadvantage on the basis that she was not paid on time was rejected because she did not provide her bank account details to prove this. It was also the impression of authority member T G Tetitaha that Von Keisenberg's role was beyond her capability as she had no formal qualifications in accounting or finance.

The authority also reduced Von Keisenberg's proposed remedies by 25 per cent, due to her aggressive behaviour and yelling when speaking with Alexander about making the drawings. This was based on the evidence received from her colleagues.

However, the authority said the dismissal process undertaken by Alexander was flawed.  There was no evidence Alexander Group had investigated the allegations raised in the letter, neither had they raised its concerns with von Keisenberg previously or given her any opportunity to respond or genuinely considered her explanation prior to the dismissal. 

Alexander failed to appear at the hearing.

The Alexander Group was subsequently ordered to pay Von Keisenberg $18,750 in compensation and lost remuneration, $5,883 in lost wages and $4,500 in legal costs.

Media Logistics, Alexander's previous business, was also ordered to pay Von Keisenberg an additional $1,333 in holiday pay.


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