The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has ordered an employer to pay $37,000 to an employee after a personal grievance claim.

The employment relationship began to deteriorate after the employee was involved in a forklift incident and the employer took steps to investigate. As the relationship continued to deteriorate, the employer sought to arrange mediation to resolve matters. The employee requested information from the employer in order to fully participate in mediation, but much of this information was not provided to the employee.

The employee was placed on sick leave by his medical practitioner due to increased levels of workplace stress. The employer requested that the employee attend a medical practitioner of its choosing to confirm when he was fit and able to return to work. Although the employee initially was willing to do so, he never retur877ned to work for the employer. The employer indicated that the employee could not return to work until the employer was satisfied that the employee was fit and able to do so.

After some back and forth between the parties, the employer initiated disciplinary proceedings on the basis that the employment relationship had become untenable – that the relationship had irreparably broken down due to the employee’s actions/attitude. The employer considered that a decision may be made to terminate the employment due to incompatibility.

The ERA decided that the relationship had not reached a point where it had broken down or, if it had, that the issues between the parties were irreconcilable. The ERA said that one of the ways that the employer could have resolved the dispute was to provide the information sought by the employee regarding the forklift incident.

In addition, the ERA found that even if the relationship had irreconcilably broken down, the employer’s process was not fair and reasonable. It did not provide the employee with a reasonable opportunity to respond to the employer’s concerns before dismissing him.

In some cases the relationship between the employer and employee may breakdown so severely that it is not possible for the employee to remain working for the employer. The employer may begin disciplinary proceedings which may result in summary termination.

Cases where an employer is justified in disciplining or dismissing an employee for incompatibility are very rare. If in doubt, it pays to get advice from a professional experienced in the area. 

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-priced Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.