Beware the blank DVD. It has become the modern day equivalent of the pen or envelope by which employers can catch you out with their principles.

A man who took a blank DVD from his workplace for his own use has been found to have been justifiably fired from his job.

David Dumolo worked as an information technology technician for the Lakes District Health Board, helping hospital sites in Taupo and Rotorua.

In May last year he was dismissed from his job after he took a blank DVD, without permission, for his personal use.

A month before he lost his job, Mr Dumolo had gone into work on Saturday, April 24, to get a blank DVD.

As well as working at the district health board, he taught martial arts and was intending to make a training DVD for his students.

He had also been giving defence classes to members of the district health board staff and would later say that the DVD was for them also.

On the day he took the DVD, another employee spotted Mr Dumolo and reported him to their manager.

When confronted, he said he did not think he had to ask permission to take a blank DVD as it was a low-priced item used every day, such as a pen or paper.

A pack of 10 blank DVDs can be bought at The Warehouse for $8.49 – just over 80 cents each.

Subsequently, a meeting was held between Mr Dumolo and his managers.

At the end of the meeting, Mr Dumolo was heard to have said: “I can’t believe this has turned into such an issue.”

It was discussed later, among the managers, that the fact that Mr Dumolo did not believe he had done anything wrong was unacceptable.

The health board’s chief information officer, Alex Wheatley, said he did not accept that taking the blank DVD was a minor thing as it was of small value.

It was more about principle rather than the cost.

Mr Wheatley said the DVD did have a cost to the organisation and Mr Dumolo’s taking it, without authorisation, was inappropriate.

“[The district health board] has 1300 staff so it would be costly if all staff took home blank DVDs,” Mr Wheatley said.

The Employment Relations Authority found that Mr Dumolo’s dismissal was justified.

His managers’ decision to fire him was fair in that in the seven months he had been working he had been given a formal warning and had been spoken to on several occasions about other incidents.

Comment

Let’s get one thing clear here. No worker is going to get dismissed for taking an 80c DVD for personal use. If that was the case then nearly every worker who takes home a pen or uses an envelope for private mail is liable to be sacked.

In New Zealand this would amount to thousands of workers nailed in pen taking sting operations by gangs of HR hit squads.

Pure and simple this is about the Lakes District Health Board getting rid of an employee that was not performing. There had been other issues with him and this was the charge they hung him on.

On its own the dismissal for the DVD would not fly, but with the weight of the other incidents it was enough.

What is perplexing here is the Lakes District Health Board’s comments to justify the dismissal from chief information officer, Alex Wheatley who might actually believe the load of bollocks he spouted off about it being “more about principle rather than the cost.”

If David Dumolo was a valued employee then the taking of a DVD would not be an issue. The fact is he probably deserved to get the chop for the cumulation of a number of incidents and this was backed up by the ERA. But to try and make out that the Lakes District Health Board is on some principle laden crusade here is beyond a joke.

Employers are happy to use whatever means they have at their disposal to remove unwanted employees. Sometimes it is a tenuous dismissal even if they have to pay out a few thousand. Often an employee gets put on close watch and pulled up for everything until they do enough to get shown the door or decide to leave having picked up the subliminal messages from management that ‘love’ is not in the the house.

The current favourite is the organisational restructure which always just happens to end up with the worst employee not having a chair to sit on when the music stops.

In many of these situations, both sides end up on a slippery slope that is not going to end well for the employee. It is usually attitude that sinks an employees chances of staying in a job. They get the pip about their initial treatment and fail to see that management holds all the cards when an employee becomes grumpy and uncooperative.