The Employment Relations Authority has ordered an employer to pay $42,000 to an employee after he was unjustifiably dismissed by the employer.

The employee was initially dismissed in July 2020. The employee raised a personal grievance claim in response, which led to a settlement agreement between the employer and the employee. This settlement agreement reinstated the employee to his former role.

Shortly after the settlement agreement was signed the employee was invited to attend two disciplinary meetings about his conduct. No formal disciplinary consequences followed these meetings.

Later in the year the employee received another complaint about his behaviour. The employer issued him a letter of expectation but did not conduct a formal investigation into the matter.

The employee decided to raise another personal grievance claim of unjustified disadvantage because of the numerous complaints raised by the employer.

After this the employee had an interview with an immigration officer in relation to the employee’s application for residence. The employer was reluctant to support the employee’s application for residence as the previous letters of support issued by the employer were issued by a staff member who no longer worked for the employer.

The employee raised another personal grievance claim, which was dealt with through another settlement agreement. This agreement included terms that stated that the employer would assist and wouldn’t hinder the employee’s residency application.

This agreement also included a provision stating that the employee would resign from his employment within 14 days of obtaining residence in New Zealand.

The employee’s visa application was declined, at which point the employee raised another personal grievance of unjustified disadvantage. The day after this claim the employer terminated the employee's employment.

The Authority dismissed the personal grievance claim of unjustified disadvantage against the employer.

It was decided that the employer had acted fairly and reasonably in their lack of support for the employee’s application as he was providing factually incorrect information to the Immigration Authority.

The Authority then looked to the claim of unjustified dismissal. The Authority decided that by paying the employee “termination pay” the employer had decided to dismiss the employee.

The employer hadn’t conducted any fair or proper process and didn’t give the employee any chance to respond. The Authority decided that the dismissal was unjustified.

The employer was ordered to pay $25,000 in compensation for hurt and humiliation, $8,000 in penalties, and $9,000 in unpaid wages.

If there is confusion around the correct dismissal process, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.

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Alan Knowsley & Matthew Binnie