In a recent decision, the Employment Relations Authority reminded employees of their duty to exercise reasonable care during the discharge of their duties.

The employee truck driver had been dismissed for allegedly admitting to eating cannabis in an attempt to stave off hereditary glaucoma.  He had made a claim for a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal.   The Authority did not uphold his claim.

The same employee had been in a serious accident which had resulted in over $10,000 worth of damage to the employer’s truck.  The employer, having been notified of the alleged personal grievance, had made a counterclaim against the employee for the damage to the truck as a result of the employee’s alleged negligence.

Such a matter would normally be resolved in the District Court.  The Employment Relations Authority, however, may make any order that the High or District Court could make in relation to contracts where the matter relates to an employment agreement.

In this case the employer was able to show that the employee’s driving manoeuvre which led to the accident was inherently hazardous and not one that a competent and experienced employee would have undertaken.  Such conduct was in direct breach of the employee’s obligation to exercise reasonable care in the discharge of his duties.  From this breach there was $10,707.05 of damage suffered by the employer.  After removing the GST component as technically not damage incurred by the employer, the employee was ordered to pay almost $9,500.00.

If you’ve caused some damage, or you’re concerned that you’re in breach of you employment agreement, it may pay to seek assistance about your potential liability.