The Employment Relations Authority has upheld a claim for unjustified dismissal after an employee complained of bullying by management.

The Employment Relations Authority held that the employer failed to provide a safe workplace because it did not provide support to the employee who complained of bullying and failed to properly investigate the allegations.  Instead it sacked the worker for taking excessive time off following the allegations.

The employee was called to attend a meeting to investigate the time he had taken off, allegedly ill due to the bullying, but was only given 24 hours’ notice of the meeting.  When the employee advised that he could not attend the meeting the employer’s response was to accuse the employee of multiple failures to attend meetings, but the ERA found that no other meetings had been arranged or offered.

The ERA ordered compensation for hurt and humiliation of $35,000 and payment of $32,900 in lost wages.

If an employee raises a complaint of bullying, then the employer must fully and fairly investigate the allegations and provide support to the worker during and after the investigation, so the employer has done all practical steps to provide a safe work place.

Employees need to raise matters with their employer as soon as possible to give the employer a reasonable opportunity to deal with the alleged bullying. The employee did so here, but the employer did not deal with the allegations properly.

Alan Knowsley

Health & Safety & Employment Lawyer