The Employment Relations Authority has rejected an employee’s claim of unjustified dismissal after finding that the employer had conducted an adequate investigation, and followed the correct dismissal process.

The employee was doing some difficult work with a colleague when he began to get frustrated at the situation. He started swearing and directing racial slurs at the people who had made the job so difficult. His colleague told him that she couldn’t be around him anymore, and left the work site. She filed a complaint against the employee.

The employer investigated the incident, conducting a meeting with the employee who complained, and inquiring into other instances of the employee’s inappropriate conduct. After finding out that the employee had received a few complaints about his conduct during the course of his employment, he informed the general manager that he believed the employee should be dismissed.

After receiving an email to that effect, the manager called the employee to inform him of the allegations and that he was going to investigate them further before making a decision. He also instructed the employee to leave the workplace, but that he would still be paid while the investigation was taking place.

The employee was invited to a meeting the following day, and was informed that the purpose of the meeting was to seek responses to the allegations made. He was also informed that he was entitled to seek legal advice and to bring a support person to the meeting.

The employee was happy for the meeting to proceed, but did not wish to seek advice or bring a support person. The employer sent a follow up email with further details of the meeting.

At the meeting, the employee was given an opportunity to respond to the allegations that were made against him. He did not deny the allegations, other than alleged homophobic slurs. The employee responded instead by attempting to justify his actions.

The meeting concluded with the decision to dismiss the employee on the basis of serious misconduct, as the employer felt that no further investigation was necessary.

The Authority had to decide whether the dismissal was justified. This requires an analysis of the process adopted, and whether it was sufficient in terms of the Employment Relations Act.

It was decided that the employer had investigated sufficiently, and had acted fairly and reasonably throughout the dismissal process of the employee. The dismissal was therefore justified, and the employee’s claim failed.

It is important to implement the correct process when dismissing an employee. The employer did so in this case, and saved themselves from potentially having to pay a large sum of compensation to the employee.

If there is confusion around the proper dismissal process of an employee, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.

 

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Alan Knowsley & Matthew Binnie

Litigation Team
Wellington