The Employment Relations Authority has upheld a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal after an employee was dismissed for trying to purchase goods from his employer.

The goods were placed by the employer for sale on TradeMe and the employee asked that they be removed TradeMe and sold to him.  The employer claimed this amounted to serious misconduct, but had no written rules around employees buying goods.  The ERA held that it was unreasonable to dismiss the employee when the company could not show what rule the employee had breached.  The employer also tried to justify the dismissal on the basis that the employee had discussed his concerns over not being paid for overtime with other employees.  The ERA held that it was unreasonable to hold this to be serious misconduct.

It appears that the employer’s attempts to get rid of the employee for serious misconduct arose because the employee was seeking to be paid for many hours of unpaid overtime.  That triggered the employer’s dismissal efforts.  The ERA awarded $19,800 compensation for the unjustified dismissal, plus lost wages of $1,973.

If an employer is claiming serious misconduct they must be able to point to a particular breach by the employee that amounts to serious misconduct.  If no rules exist or the rules have not been brought to the attention of the employee then they cannot be enforced.

Alan Knowsley
Employment Lawyer