An employee was pressured into resigning after she was bullied by her manager. The manager had previously received a number of complaints from other staff.

The Employment Relations Authority upheld the employee’s personal grievance claim for unjustified dismissal.

The employee was placed on special leave while the complaint was investigated and was asked to take part in a ‘guided mediation meeting’ with all staff present, during which she received no apology or admission of bullying from the manager. The employer told the employee that any acknowledgement of wrongdoing or recognition of the adverse effect of the manager’s behaviour on the employee was never going to happen.

After mediation also proved unsuccessful, the employee was given the choice between resigning or returning to work and being subject to a work plan in full and final settlement of her complaint.  When the employee failed to respond to the settlement offer, the employer took her silence as resignation.

The ERA found that the employer had failed to act as a fair and reasonable employer could in all of the circumstances, and awarded the employee 17 months’ lost wages plus $15,000 in compensation for hurt, humiliation and loss of dignity.

The award made in this case is significantly higher than the usual amount paid out to employees, and could act as a precedent in future cases to justify a higher pay out to victims of workplace bullying.

Alan Knowsley
Employment Lawyer