An employee working as a chef was suspended while on sick leave after performance concerns, and allegations that the employee was recruiting staff members to work in a new café that she was setting up. The employee was later dismissed for her poor performance and attitude after her employer accepted that there was no café and that the story had been made up.

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

The ERA held that the employee suffered unjustified disadvantage in her employment as the employer failed to follow the suspension processes set out in the employee’s employment agreement. The employee was not consulted about the proposed suspension and had no opportunity to comment on the proposal.

The ERA held that a fair and reasonable employer could not in the circumstances have justifiably dismissed the employee as the employer did not follow the clear dismissal clauses set out in the employee’s employment agreement. The employer’s concerns regarding the employee’s performance were not explained to the employee at the disciplinary meeting, and she was thus unaware of the reasons for her dismissal.

The ERA ordered the employer to pay the employee $9,360 for lost wages plus $19,500 compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity, and injury to feelings.