The Supreme Court has overturned the Court of Appeal and reinstated the decision of the Employment Court that employees based in New Zealand are protected by New Zealand anti-discrimination laws.  This is despite their employment agreements stating that the laws of an overseas country would apply (where such discrimination is not unlawful).

The employees were pilots with an overseas airline, but employed by a different company (also an overseas entity).  They were based in New Zealand, paid in New Zealand money and had to reside in New Zealand as part of their contract.  Their contract said that the contract was governed by the law of the country their employer was based in.

Their contract also required them to retire at age 55.  Such a provision is contrary to New Zealand provisions in the Employment Relations Act and Human Rights Act against discrimination on the basis of age.

The Court held that, as the employees were based in New Zealand, the protections from discrimination applied and overrode the choice of another country’s laws to apply.

The Court said its decision only applied to anti-discrimination provisions and left open whether other protections, such as against an unjustified dismissal, would also apply under New Zealand law.

Alan Knowsley
Employment Lawyer