Karen Hammond. photo / supplied
Karen Hammond. photo / supplied

Woman wins $168k damages for offensive cake fallout

A NEW Zealand woman who baked an offensive cake about her former employers has been awarded more than $168,000 in damages following a Facebook breach of privacy and "loss of dignity".

During a Human Rights Tribunal hearing last December, former NZ Credit Union Baywide (NZCU) employee Karen Hammond claimed her former bosses breached her privacy when NZCU took a screenshot of the offending cake from her Facebook page and distributed it to recruitment agencies.

Ms Hammond left the company in March 2012 and five days later baked the frosty dessert for her workmate, whom she believed had been constructively fired from the company.

The fruit and chocolate chunk cake, with "Credit Union Baywide f*** you" and "c***s" in pink icing, was taken to a dinner party of ten friends and an image uploaded to social media.

Once NZCU executives obtained a copy of the photo it was distributed to recruitment agencies and Miss Hammond's new employer, Financepoint, with a request she be sacked.

Ms Hammond, who represented herself during the hearing, was on Monday awarded $168,070.88 in damages following the release of chairman Roger Haines and tribunal members Wendy Gilchrist and Brian Neeson's decision.

"The Tribunal is that it is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that an action of NZCU Baywide was an interference with the privacy of Ms Hammond," the decision read.

"Baywide interfered with the privacy of Ms Hammond by disclosing personal information about her."

Damages of $98,000 were awarded for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings, and $38,350 was awarded for lost income, and being a pecuniary loss suffered as a result of the interference.

Damages of $15,543.10 were awarded for pecuniary loss in the form of legal expenses, while $16,177.78 was awarded for the loss of a benefit Ms Hammond might reasonably have expected to obtain.

An order was also made that Baywide be restrained from continuing or repeating the interference, or from engaging in, or causing or permitting others to engage in, conduct of the same kind.

Baywide is also forced to send a retraction of an April 12, 2012 email warning about Ms Hammond along with a copy of the decision to Red Consulting Group, Able Personnel, Adecco and Grow HR.

Baywide was also ordered to request that the email sent by Baywide human resource manger Louise Alexandra and any screenshot of the cake sent by her and any copy be deleted.

A report is also to be provided to the Tribunal and to Ms Hammond detailing the steps taken in compliance with this order and the responses received by NZCU Baywide.

An order was also made that Baywide CEO Gavin Earle forward to all members of staff a retraction of his April 13, 2012 email about the dispute along with an apology to Ms Hammond.

Baywide, in conjunction with the Privacy Commissioner and at its own expense, will also provide training to its management staff in relation to their and the company's obligations under the Privacy Act 1993 in order to ensure they are aware of these obligations.

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