New Zealand's Trashiest Employment Law Blogs - by Karen Davis

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

As we promised last month, here’s our picks for top three:

#3: Erin Burke

If we were going to blog on the unfortunate legacy of former ERA Chief James Crichton, this would be a good place to start. Ms Burke’s sycophantic blog describes a situation where an employer, Turuki Healthcare, paid a former employee most of what had been negotiated in mediation, but was unresponsive to attempts to chase up the rest, causing considerable stress to the ex-employee. Her advocate engaged the help of a social worker and the dispute escalated to the point where, in desperation, they wrote to the Minister asking for an investigation of the practices of the employer. The advocate also called for the dismissal of Chief Crichton for failing to tackle workplace bullying in general. The employer filed a Statement of problem in the ERA and this was allocated to Mr Crichton, who retaliated by fining CultureSafe NZ Ltd, its director Allan Halse and its then contractor Tracey Simpson despite none of them being parties to the mediated settlement agreement and the employer Turuki having breached the agreement first.

The penalty was the maximum allowable for breach of a compliance order, so Mr Crichton ordered his targets to comply with someone else’s “settlement” and then claimed they had breached it by Allan Halse writing a letter to Turuki’s lawyer, Anthony Drake. He made them “jointly and severally liable”, including for “general damages”, although he had no right to do any of that. Ms Burke gleefully points out that in Mr Crichton’s system, Ms Simpson could be on the hook for the full $30,000 despite $10,000 being the maximum (and even that was illegally imposed), “...unless she is prepared to go to jail too”.

That’s lovely, Ms Burke. As an outsider, what do you think of the human race?

Footnote: The Court of Appeal has accepted a recent application to judicially review the ERA in relation to Turuki and two other matters (RPW and Bay of Plenty DHB).

#2: (details withheld)

Like us, we suspect that a Wellington lawyer regularly trawled or similar looking for stuff to blog, and why not – it’s a cool hobby for an employment lawyer to have. However a lady the lawyer said mean things about went on to lose a contract because her overseas client googled her up and found the blog, and that caused financial hardship. She sent the lawyer a Takedown Notice (hey, we’ve received a couple of these ourselves), and long story short, this rubbishy blog is gone-burgers.

This matter was our inspiration to call out such blogs. But anyway, the lawyer removed the blog without making a fuss.

#1: SBM Legal (EmpC Judge Kathryn Beck’s old firm)

This spiteful, cronyism-driven blog was from the law firm of the then President of the New Zealand Law Society, Kathryn Beck. It’s nearly three years old and was written before Ms Beck fell out with her friend Steph Dyhrberg over differing #MeToo ideologies. Ms Beck was the one who made sure a rape victim who complained lost her career and the suspect kept his. Dyhrberg Drayton were the ones who helped fraudsters.

Ms Dyhrberg’s firm is being sued in the High Court by their former client Dr Sawyer, the target of the blog, for what is euphemistically called “agreement between counsel”, by which we mean one lawyer flips for the other having been enticed with a bribe of public money. This blog was particularly unethical because most of the “penalty” from the taxpayer-funded SLAPP that was brought before ERA Member Anna Fitzgibbon went to Dr Sawyer’s former managers, Mr X and Mr Y. It’s not clear whether Ms Beck knew the “penalty” was illegal anyway, or was just ignorant, but it’s obvious from the case reports that Dr Sawyer never received a payout despite being treated as if she had.

The icing on the cake is the way the author seems to suggest that Dr Sawyer was lucky not to have been ordered to pay a lot more than $8500, despite that figure being a record at the time and this being the first kickback award to miscreants – though not the last. This matter also is not resolved as it’s currently under Judicial Review.


In general, a publicised employment dispute can cause a former employee difficulties in gaining new employment, and when combined with other factors such as a changing market, the age of the jobseeker, etc, self-employment may be the only option. Anyone who feels that they have been unfairly treated by a blogger (including us) may have a right to have material corrected or removed. Suing for defamation in the High Court is expensive and risky so we hope that we have illustrated the need for legal bloggers to consider the impact on their subjects.

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