The Employment Relations Authority has ordered an employer to pay over $10,000 after an employee raised a successful personal grievance claim of unjustified dismissal.

The employee and employer had an “amicable” relationship at the beginning of the employment. However, the relationship deteriorated quickly after relationship issues arose.

The employment relationship issues initially began due to defects in the employee’s cleaning methods. The methods were incorrect compared to what he had been shown at the beginning of his employment. When this issue was raised with the employee, the employer claimed that the employee had stated he knew he was cleaning incorrectly and was doing it that way on purpose.

After this encounter, the employer wrote a letter to the employee regarding the issue. The letter requested a meeting with the employee, advised him that the process may lead to dismissal and stated that the employee could bring a support person if he wished.

The employment relationship deteriorated quickly after the letter was given to the employee. The employee responded with hostility, including using expletives, and refused to leave the workplace after being asked to do so. The employer then verbally dismissed the employee.

The employer wrote a letter to the employee the following week setting out their reasons for dismissing the employee. Those reasons included the employee’s conduct after receiving the letter and that his behaviour had breached multiple clauses in his employment contract.

The Authority had to determine whether the employer had acted as a fair and reasonable employer, given the surrounding circumstances. This analysis includes considering the process undertaken by the employer and the resources available to them.

The Authority noted that expletives were commonly used in the workplace, especially between the employee and employer. Therefore, the situation needed to be looked at within that context.

The evidence provided, including recordings of the incident, showed that the employee had been hostile towards the employer. The Authority also noted that the employer was genuinely frustrated with the situation but clearly wanted to hear the employee’s side of the story, given the initial letter.

However, the Authority decided that despite that initial letter requesting a meeting, no process was followed in relation to the issues given for the employee’s dismissal. The reasons given by the employer for dismissing the employee were different to those outlined in the letter.

The Authority decided that this meant the employee was not informed of why he was being dismissed, nor did he have a chance to respond to those allegations or provide his opinion on the issue before being dismissed.

The Authority concluded that the employer had therefore not acted as a fair and reasonable employer could have.

The employer was ordered to pay over $3,900 in wage arrears, as well as $6,800 in compensation for hurt and humiliation. The Authority decreased the reparation award from $8,000 to $6,800, given that the employee’s conduct had contributed to the breakdown of the employment relationship.

It is important to be aware of your obligations as an employer. If you are confused about these obligations, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors