The Employment Relations Authority has upheld a personal grievance claim for unjustified dismissal and ordered the employer to pay the employee $14,700.

The employee took an item from the shop floor and put it in her lunchbox. Other employees saw what happened and told the store manager.

The manager approached the employee who told him that the product had expired, and that a previous manager at the store said she could have it. The employee then instead threw the product away.

The next day another manager confronted the employee.  There was a brief discussion before the manager dismissed the employee.

The Authority held that the employer unjustifiably dismissed the employee. It explained that the employer failed to carry out a proper investigation of the allegations and allow the employee to have an opportunity to have the allegations put to her for comment.

Although theft is a serious matter, the Authority did not accept the employer’s argument that dismissing the employee immediately was necessary to protect the business, and explained that a suspension process would have been more appropriate in the circumstances.

The Authority ordered the employer to pay the employee $9,500 in lost wages and $15,000 in compensation. However, the Authority reduced the award by 40% for the employee’s actions that contributed to the situation.

Where there are allegations of theft against an employee it is important to carry out a proper investigation process. Additionally, if an employment agreement has a clause that allows for suspension, this may be used while an investigation is performed.

If there are concerns that an employee has been stealing, or you are thinking about performing an investigation relating to employee theft, it is wise to speak with a professional experienced in the area.

A copy of our employment guide on the disciplinary process can be found here.

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