The Employment Relations Authority has upheld a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal after an employee was fired for not paying back an alleged $250 debt to the employer.

After an argument about the debt the employee advised that she was taking some time off work due to stress.  The next day, when the employer had not received payment of the debt owed, the employer terminated the employment relationship on the grounds that the employee could no longer be trusted. 

The employee raised a personal grievance for unjustifiable disadvantage and unjustifiable dismissal. 

The ERA held the defects in the employer’s process resulted in the employee being treated unfairly. The employer did not follow the proper disciplinary process as it did not put the allegations about trust to the employee, meet with the employee to discuss the concerns, provide the employee an opportunity to respond before making a decision, and advise the employee of her right to have a support person or representative present in a meeting.   

The ERA also said that even if the employer had followed the proper process, the decision to dismiss was not one that was open to a fair and reasonable employer. 

The employee was awarded $4,800 in lost wages and outstanding holiday pay, $15,000 in compensation and $3,000 in legal costs. 

Because the employer failed to act fairly and to follow any reasonable process the employer was required to pay almost $23,000 to the employee, over a $250 debt owed.