The Employment Relations Authority has ordered an employer to pay $25,500 after deciding that the actions of the employer in relation to the employee caused her to resign, amounting to a constructive dismissal.

The employee brought the personal grievance claim after the employer ignored multiple complaints from the employee about being paid less than minimum wage. As well as this, the employee was instructed to drive alone when on a learner driving licence. The employee claimed that this led to an unsafe working environment.

The employee also argued that the employer had failed to deal with another employee’s aggressive conduct towards her in a satisfactory manner. Another employee had aggressively confronted the employee, and it was claimed that this could have been prevented if the employer had taken action in regard to the employee's previous complaints about the aggressive employee’s conduct.

Finally, the employer issued a warning to the employee about the failure to finish her shift after the employee injured herself, and subsequently left work for the day. The employer issued this warning without properly investigating the situation and therefore did not have sufficient facts to issue the warning.

The Authority had to decide whether the resignation of the employee was reasonably foreseeable as a result of the employer’s conduct. The Authority agreed with the employee’s claims, deciding that the resignation was reasonably foreseeable as a result of the employer’s failure to pay a sufficient wage, coupled with the failure to provide a safe work environment.

The Authority also stated that the failure to implement proper process when issuing a warning to the employee played a role in the resignation. No investigation into the employee’s conduct was undertaken, leading the Authority to decide that the warning was baseless and unfair.

The Authority decided that the employer’s actions amounted to a constructive dismissal, and ordered the employer to pay $2,000 in wage arrears for the underpayment of the employee, $3,500 for the wages she lost as a result of the constructive dismissal, and $20,000 as compensation for the hurt and humiliation the employee suffered as a result of the employer's actions.

If there is confusion regarding the proper process to deal with employee complaints, it is wise to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.

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Alan Knowsley and Matthew Binnie