An employee who worked as a store manager has had her personal grievance claim for unjustified dismissal upheld by the Employment Relationships Authority.

A dispute arose when the employee rang her employer over allegations that she was being bullied in the workplace. The conversation quickly deteriorated and the employee was subsequently dismissed.

The ERA held that the employee had resigned after reviewing the notes which her employer had taken during the discussion and an email that she had sent an hour later, before she was aware that it was contentious whether or not the employee had verbally resigned. Both of these documents reflected the employer’s version of events, and were supported by another employee who over heard the phone call.

However, the ERA noted that an employer should ensure an employee genuinely intends to resign and has not done so impulsively before they accept their resignation. The ERA held that the employee’s resignation was made in the heat of the moment and stated that the employer, knowing that the employee was upset and angry, should have ended the call and advised her that her resignation could be discussed the following day if she still intended to proceed with it. By not doing so, the ERA held that she had failed to act as a fair and reasonable employer. Consequently, the employer could not rely on the employee’s resignation as a defense to her personal grievance.

The ERA noted that alternatively the oral resignation was invalid because the employee’s contract required that resignations be in writing.

The ERA held that the employer had unjustly dismissed the employee having failed to undertake a fair and reasonable investigation.

As the employee had taken two weeks unpaid leave before the dismissal the ERA awarded only one week’s worth of lost wages plus $3,000 compensation for hurt and humiliation minus a 50 per cent reduction for the employee’s contribution in bringing about her dismissal.