An employee was successful in her application for reinstatement after an unjustified dismissal.

This was despite it being found that the disciplinary process that led to a warning for breaching the employer’s media policy, and behaving inappropriately towards another employee, was fair.  The employer’s suspension of the employee while investigating allegations of further inappropriate actions was also found to be justified.

However, the employer’s case against reinstatement fell down because its investigator had two different versions of interview notes from two people who had complained about the employee.

The Employment Relations Authority decided that a fair and reasonable employer would have checked out this inconsistency, especially where the employee denied the inappropriate behaviour.

The failure to investigate properly, and employer’s inadequate findings after the investigations, resulted in the Authority deciding that a fair and reasonable employer would not have concluded the allegations amounted to serious misconduct justifying dismissal.

In addition to having to reinstate the employee, the employer was required to pay lost wages from the date of dismissal to the date of reinstatement, and pay the employee $10,000 for injury to feelings.

Clearly getting the process wrong was a costly exercise for the employer, given the distraction from running the business, the damages, fees for legal advice, and double wages for the replacement employee during much of the period between the dismissal and the reinstatement.