The Employment Relations Authority has ordered an employer to pay $3,080 after an employee successfully raised a personal grievance claim of unjustified dismissal.

The employee was at work, when a customer attempted to purchase something using a voucher. One of his co-workers was unfamiliar with the process for redemption of a voucher and asked for the employees help. The customer then took their purchased good and left the voucher with the employee.

The voucher still had a value of $50 after this purchase, but instead of tracking down the customer to return the voucher, the employee used it himself on six different occasions.

The employer reviewed CCTV footage of each incident, and subsequently invited the employee to a meeting without informing him of the topic of discussion. At this meeting the employer confronted the employee with both the allegation of use of a customer voucher, as well as taking home wine when he wasn’t permitted to do so.

The employee admitted to using the voucher, but lied by stating that he found it crumpled up on the floor. The employee also admitted to taking the wine, but said that he was permitted to do so by his manager.

A second meeting was scheduled for the next day by the employer. The employee was not instructed to bring representation, leading him to believe that his job was safe.

At the meeting, the employee was informed that he was being dismissed immediately, as his actions constituted serious misconduct. The next day, the employer provided the employee with a letter that set out the reasons for the employee’s dismissal. This letter was only provided after a request from the employee.

The employee then raised the personal grievance claim in the Authority.

The Authority had to decide whether the employer had acted in a fair and reasonable manner throughout the course of the process. To determine this, the Authority looked at whether the investigation and process that was followed by the employer was procedurally fair.

It was decided that the dismissal process and investigation were inadequate. The employer failed to inform the employee of the allegations prior to the first meeting, nor did he provide the CCTV footage to the employee for review. As well as this, he did not recommend that the employer seek representation.

The Authority also decided that the decision to dismiss the employee was determined before the commencement of the second meeting. This means that there was no meaningful opportunity for the employee to present his side of the issue. This was also labelled as procedural unfairness by the Authority.

If an employee has contributed to the situation that gives rise to the personal grievance, the Authority can reduce any order made against the employer. In this case, the employee had willingly entered into misconduct which directly caused the personal grievance to occur. This led the Authority to decide that the employee had contributed to the personal grievance, and reduced all orders against the employer by 25%.

The employer was ordered to pay $1,580 in lost wages, and $1,500 as compensation for breaching good faith obligations.

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


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Alan Knowsley & Matthew Binnie