The Employment Relations Authority has ordered an employer to pay over $25,000 after firing an employee over her raising a personal grievance claim.

The employee was verbally abused by her employer and his partner repeatedly during her employment. The employee was shouted at, degraded and belittled, which eventually led to a breakdown that required her to be taken to hospital.

The employee raised a personal grievance claim with her employer as a result of the bullying. In response to this claim, the employer gave the employee her final pay slip and requested the return of her work keys because she was a “security risk”.

The Authority found that these actions were a without notice dismissal of the employee.

The employee raised a personal grievance claim of unjustified dismissal with the Authority. The Authority held that the employer had breached their good faith obligations, as they did not take any steps to address the employee’s personal grievance claim, or seek her response before shutting her out of the business. 

It was decided that a reasonable employer in the circumstances would have investigated the employee’s personal grievance claim and would not have dismissed her for raising such a claim.

The employer was ordered to pay $18,000 for the emotional harm that the employee had suffered, and a further $3,500 for her legal costs.

The Authority also found that the employer had breached minimum employment standards, as they had been paying the employee less than the minimum wage. The employer was ordered to pay over $2,700 in wage arrears and $1,800 in lost wages.

The employer had also deducted the cost of obtaining a work licence from the employee’s wages, which she had not used with the employer. The Authority found that this was unlawful because the employee had not been consulted about the amount or circumstances of the deduction. 

There are important processes that must be followed when dismissing an employee. If you are unsure of your obligations, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors