The Employment Relations Authority has upheld personal grievance claims and found that two employees were unjustifiably dismissed after their employer forced them to take three weeks leave without notice. This amounted to a constructive dismissal of each employee.

The employees were not told why they were being forced to take leave. Their work keys were taken from them and their pay was stopped. Both employees thought that they had been suspended without pay, but were not provided with any information by the employer.

When the employees returned to work, they were moved from their normal workspace and expected to use their own computers rather than the company’s, which prevented them from performing their jobs properly. Neither of the employees got paid their wages for their previous month of work, or for their leave.

This led to both employees resigning and raising personal grievance claims of unjustified dismissal with the Authority, claiming that they had been constructively dismissed as a result of the employer’s actions.

A constructive dismissal occurs when an employee is forced to resign because of their employer’s actions, and that resignation was foreseeable as a result of those actions.

The employer explained that they had suspicions that the employees had deliberately taken important company information, which required serious investigation. The Authority decided that if that were the case, the employer was required to give the employees a chance to respond to the allegations, as well as inform them that the investigation was taking place.

The employer’s concerns were not shared with the employees until after they had been dismissed, nor were they given a chance to provide feedback. The Authority also found that the allegations had not been properly investigated and the employer had no reasonable basis for their concerns.

The Authority concluded that the employees had been constructively dismissed as they were forced to resign by the employer.

The employer was ordered to pay lost wages and a total of $25,000 to the employees for the hurt and humiliation they suffered because of the employer’s conduct.

It is important to follow the correct process when dismissing an employee. If you are unsure of your obligations, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.

 

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Author

Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors