The Employment Relations Authority has upheld a claim for constructive dismissal following a personal grievance claim.

The employee made various complaints about being bullied at work by her colleagues. She claimed that her employer did not investigate her complaints. After some time, and because the situation at work did not improve, the employee resigned suffering from mental health issues. The employer claimed it had responded to the employee’s complaints and was continuing to do so at the time of the employee’s resignation.

The complaints ranged from minor instances to more serious events such as a colleague failing to provide assistance in a situation where the employee was being physically restrained by a resident in the employer’s care.

The employer sought to deal with the issues through staff training. However, further instances of bullying occurred shortly after.

The ERA held that the employer did not take the steps to investigate the allegations of bullying. Rather holding a staff training, but “without investigating complaints, monitoring behaviour and responding to the complaint achieves very little”.

The ERA ordered the employer to pay:

  • $15,000 compensation for hurt, humiliation and injury to feelings suffered by the employee;
  • $3,100 lost wages due to unjustified dismissal; and
  • a contribution towards the employee’s legal fees.

An employer has a duty to keep employees and others present at the premises safe so far as reasonably practicable. This includes keeping the employees safe from bullying and harassment at work.

Unlike the employer in this case, an employer should always take steps to investigate complaints made by employees. Where an employer fails to do so, or does not do so sufficiently, an employee may raise a personal grievance.