An employee who worked as an office and sales administrator resigned after reporting incidents of bullying and intimidation by her employers. The employee believed that one of her employers was embezzling money from the business and so implemented a cash handling system, which caused a lot of resentment and tension to arise between them. The employee was then hospitalised due to work stress and did not return to work.

The ERA upheld the employee’s personal grievance claim that she had been unjustifiably constructively dismissed but rejected that she had been disadvantaged in her employment because she had not received sick leave. This was because she had been working for the company for less than six months and was not contractually entitled to sick pay.

The ERA held that the employers failed to provide the employee with a safe working environment which caused her stress, and led to her ill health and resignation.

The ERA found that stress arose because of the tense relationship between her employers whom she had to work with on a daily basis, and because of the health issues of one of her employers who would yell at her from a different room due to not being fully mobile.

The ERA held that no formal steps were taken when the employee raised issues of bullying and intimidation in the workplace and nothing was done to address the animosity between her other employer when she accused her of embezzlement.

The ERA held that the employer’s breach was of sufficient seriousness to render the employee’s resignation reasonably foreseeable.

The ERA awarded over three months lost wages plus $10,000 compensation for hurt and humiliation.

 

Alan Knowsley

Employment Lawyer Wellington