A former Air New Zealand flight attendant who battled a party-pill addiction is likely to appeal her dismissal.
The Employment Relations Authority has ruled Air New Zealand was justified in dismissing Anna MacArthur in December last year.
"It's still very raw," said MacArthur, who had worked for the airline since 1983. "I wasn't expecting to lose but I'm getting over it on a daily basis."
Air New Zealand cabin crew are banned from drinking for 10 hours before flights, and face random drug and alcohol tests.
MacArthur told her employer she was addicted to BZP party pills in 2007. BZP, or benzylpiperazine, has effects similar to amphetamine - feelings of euphoria and increased sociability. Side-effects include headaches, agitation and heart palpitations, and psychosis and seizures in extreme cases.
Initially unregulated in New Zealand, BZP became popular 10 years ago. In April last year, it was banned. It is less addictive than drugs such as methamphetamine but cases of addiction have been recorded.
MacArthur, 48, says she is considering appealing the Employment Court ruling. "What they say in the decision is very different to what really happened," she said.
At her own expense, she flew to the United States for treatment and entered a recovery agreement with Air New Zealand, which stated she could carry out ground duties as long as she stayed clean, attended counselling and was seen by medical staff.
After three months she was to be assessed to see if she was fit to return to flight duties. But 19 months later, there was no date for MacArthur to return to flying. Air New Zealand, while noting she had made progress, decided to dismiss her.
MacArthur claimed her dismissal was unjustified and sought compensation for lost wages, hurt and humiliation. She argued the recovery agreement had no definite end point and said Air New Zealand could have tried harder to find her alternative employment.
MacArthur also said Air New Zealand breached her employment conditions when its doctors released medical information to management.
But Employment Relations Authority member James Wilson ruled it was difficult to fault the airline's actions. The authority did not accept that it was inappropriate for her medical information to be released, as MacArthur was seeking to keep her job and had effectively given her doctor permission to share the information.
Air New Zealand declined to comment on the ruling.
By Alice Neville
October 18, 2009
New Zealand Herald
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