The Employment Relations Authority has ordered an employer to pay $11,000 after an employee was successful in her personal grievance claim unjustified dismissal. The employee claimed that the actions of her employer left her no choice but to resign, and that this amounted to a constructive unjustified dismissal.

The employee was on a 90 day trial period, during which time the employee was exposed to behaviour which made for an unpleasant workplace experience. The employers would raise their voices at employees in front of clients, ignore employees, and would make negative comments about employees’ immigration status.

On the day that the employee resigned, the employer had raised his voice at the employee because of a mistake that the employee had made. When the employee attempted to get clarity on what was expected of her, the employer attempted to use their position of power to intimidate the employee into backing down.

The employee left the workplace and resigned later that day.

The Authority determined that the resignation met the standard of a constructive dismissal, because the employer breached the duty of fair and reasonable treatment towards the employee. Because of the severity of the incident, the Authority decided that it was reasonably foreseeable that the employee would resign as a result of the behaviour.

The Authority ordered the employer to pay nearly $7000 in lost wages as a result of the dismissal, and $5000 for the hurt and humiliation the conduct caused.

If the employer had understood what acceptable treatment of employees is, this situation could have been avoided, and the employer would not have had to pay an expensive penalty.

If there is confusion about employee rights, it is wise to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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Alan Knowsley