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But it's the Law!

April 18, 2016

Is there something wrong with this picture? You might think so.

An employee came back from his holiday late. While overseas, he ran up a $23K phone bill, at the expense of his employer. He was dismissed, and later raised a personal grievance. While the ERA held that dismissal was justified, the employer had totally bungled the dismissal procedure, so that the employee was awarded $10K for hurt and humiliation caused by the procedural failures, reduced to $6K because of his conduct. BUT there’s more – the employer was stuck with the $23K phone bill. Yes, ouch, bull, #@#!.

The employer’s bungles (for which there should have been no excuse, as it is a large company which should have had access to excellent HR resources and legal advice) were common bungles – for example, the employee wasn’t provided with all relevant information (about the phone bill and data used) and therefore wasn’t given the chance to explain; and wasn’t correctly advised of the right to be represented at the disciplinary meeting.

You can’t have much sympathy with a large company that should have easily been able to get the process right. But the end result would stick in the throat of any employer, and most employers are “small”, with many of those being really small, so that playing by the employment laws, which are not easy, is easier said than done.

As a business lawyer, I would like to send out more updates to business clients and contacts that deal with business law matters other than employment matters. But employment law is so complex in New Zealand, and so many issues continue to arise, that my employment law updates probably outnumber all of my other business law updates.


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