The Employment Relations Authority has rejected an employee’s personal grievance claim for unjustified dismissal against her employer. This was due to her casual contract status. After requesting to swap tasks with her colleague, her employer instructed her to deal directly with her colleague to arrange the swap. When she attempted to do so, this led to an altercation with her colleague.

7 days after the altercation, the employer terminated her casual contract after her rostered shifts ended.  

As a result, the employee sought to establish that this was an unjustified action causing disadvantage and unjustifiable dismissal.

Her basis for the claim was that her supervisor did not act appropriately in dealing with her request to swap tasks and she argued that the supervisor did not investigate the altercation before ending her employment. No fair process was conducted according to the claimant.

In assessing these claims, the Authority found that the employee was employed on a casual contract. This relationship does not give rise to an obligation for the employer to offer work to the employee. The contract stipulated that she worked as a ‘seasonal casual’ and no regular pattern of work was evident over the 9-week employment period. These factors led to the finding that her employment status was casual.

Based on this, the employee was unable to establish that she was dismissed in a manner that was unjustified. When work was no longer offered to her after her rostered shifts ended, she ceased to be an employee and thus, she had no right to claim for unjustified dismissal.

In relation to the unjustified disadvantage claim it was determined by the authority that the employer proceeded in the appropriate manner as employees could negotiate their own changes in work tasks. The actions of the supervisor were acceptable as the alternative would be seen as imposing the change over the employees. Therefore, no personal grievance can succeed because the actions of the employer were justified.

In cases of ‘seasonal’ employment, the lines between part time and casual can be blurred. This is why it is important to ensure there are clear terms and that both parties understand the terms of their employment agreement.

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Alan Knowsley & Brianna Cadwallader