In a recent Employment Relations Authority decision, it was determined an employee had not experienced a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal as she had never actually been dismissed. The employee was ordered to pay $10,000 as a contribution towards her former employer’s legal fees spent defending the false claim.

The employee was a housekeeper at a motel, while at work she fell over and broke her elbow. After her injury she received a call from her employer – it was found by the authority that the content of this phone call was to give the employee peace of mind that while they were expecting her return, the motel was experiencing a quieter patch and she did not need to rush back to work. The employee had incorrectly taken this to mean she had been dismissed. Following this, the employee did not return to work and instead lodged a personal grievance claim.

The authority found the evidence produced was inconsistent with the employees view; the authority noted the employer was looking to promote the employee to a supervisory role, the employer had paid additional wages after the employee’s injury before ACC payments had started and the employer had sponsored the employees working visa.  All of this evidence was used to show that the employee’s belief was mistaken. The evidence further supported the view that the employer had not intended to dismiss her due to the injury she had sustained.  

The authority described the employee as intransigent and said that while she felt she had been wronged, she hadn’t considered any evidence contrary to her own.

The employee’s claim for unjustified dismissal was declined and she was ordered to contribute $10,000 towards the employer’s legal costs.  

If an employee feels they have a grievance, the first step should be to discuss that grievance with their employer. Such a discussion here, most likely would have cleared up any misunderstanding and solved the issue without the need for an ERA hearing.

Alan Knowsley
Employment Lawyer