The Employment Relations Authority has recently upheld a claim for unjustified dismissal after an employee was dismissed based on a poor disciplinary process. The employer was ordered to pay $20,000 in unpaid wages and compensation for hurt and humiliation.

The employee was acting in their supervisory capacity at a meeting held to address work vehicles use after hours. The meeting got heated and the incident was reported to management by the employees and the supervisor.

The ERA found the dismissal was underpinned by a flawed investigation into the allegations made against the supervisor. The human resources general manager had formed a negative view of the supervisor based on allegations, and did not conduct their own investigation. The supervisor was not given the opportunity to respond to allegations made against him until a disciplinary meeting in which, the seriousness of the ongoing investigation was not disclosed. The supervisor was dismissed at the end of the meeting.

When investigating an employee for misconduct, employers are required to carry out a procedurally fair and full investigation. The decision maker is required to come to a balanced and reasoned decision. If the decision maker relies on allegations without making their own findings and does not tell the employee of the possible consequences of the investigation, the decision will likely be found to be an unjustified.

Alan Knowsley
Employment Lawyer