New Zealand PM John Key has apologized to an Auckland cafe waitress for repeatedly pulling her hair.
According to the unnamed waitress, the prime minister had tugged her ponytail on several occasions, even after she had asked him not to.
John Key’s office said on April 22 that his actions were meant to be “light-hearted” and he apologized.
The incident has sparked criticism from an opposition party and the public.
The waitress wrote on the Daily Blog that the hair-pulling started during last November’s election campaign, when John Key’s National Party was re-elected.
The woman said that she had begun avoiding John Key whenever he came into the cafe, and had told his security officers that she didn’t like her hair being pulled.
She said she finally told John Key in person to stop in March, but he continued to do so.
His office said in a statement: “His actions were intended to be light-hearted. It was never his intention to make her feel uncomfortable and he has apologized to her.”
John Key told reporters on April 22 that he had “a very warm and friendly relationship” with staff at the cafe where “we have lots of fun and games there, there’s always lots of practical jokes and things”.
One of the leaders of New Zealand’s Green Party, Metiria Turei, said his actions raised questions about workplace bullying.
“As politicians our job is to make people feel safe at work, not bullied… We should expect higher standards of behavior from our prime minister, not this weird hair-pulling,” Metiria Turei told The New Zealand Herald.