An employee was dismissed after he allegedly assaulted another person at his workplace. The employee claimed that the person’s injuries were self-inflicted or caused by another person.

The Employment Relations Authority rejected the employee’s personal grievance claim for unjustified dismissal, and concluded that the employer had acted as a fair and reasonable employer could in the circumstances by finding that the employee was guilty of the assault.

In a recent judgment, the Employment Court overturned the Authority’s decision. The Court found that the employer did not have enough sufficient and reliable evidence to hold the employee responsible for the assault. The Court noted that the employer needed to have conducted further inquires into the evidence before drawing adverse conclusions about the employee’s guilt.

The Court held that there were also significant defects in the dismissal process which resulted in the employee being treated unfairly. The Court stated that the employer acted in bad faith when she rejected the employee’s request for a postponement of the investigation while the police decided whether to lay charges. In doing so, the employer went against its usual practice, and gave no reasons as to why. As a result, a report was produced without the employees input.

The Court also criticised the employer’s investigator for not taking into account the police’s decision not to prosecute, and noted that it was ‘disturbing’ how the investigator passively accepted everything the alleged victim said about the alleged offending, over the word of a long-standing employee. Additionally, the Court condemned the decision-maker for failing to make an independent judgment as to whether the employee’s dismissal was justified and for failing to question or challenge any aspect of the investigation.

The Court awarded the employee three months lost wages plus $20,000 compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings. The Court also ordered the employee to be reinstated in his former position.