The Employment Relations Authority has upheld a personal grievance claim, and ordered an employer to pay an employee, after it unjustifiably suspended and then dismissed him.

There were several incidents where the employee was suspected of consuming alcohol at work. On two occasions the employee was sent home. In one instance, the employer witnessed alcohol in the employee’s vehicle after sending him home in a taxi.

The employee refused to take any alcohol tests that the employer requested.

The employer invited the employee to two meetings, one with a letter explaining that he would be questioned about his alcohol consumption at work. The employer did not carry out an investigation and relied upon accounts of other employees.

The employee was dismissed after the second meeting.

The Authority explained that the suspension was unjustified because the employee’s employment agreement required the employer to consult with him before making a decision.

Additionally, the Authority held that the employee’s dismissal was unjustified because:

  • The employer was influenced by previous events and assumptions made when seeing alcohol in the employee’s car;
  • the employer relied on statements made by employees without investigating for themselves;
  • the contents of one of the meeting letters implied that the employer had already made up their mind that the employee had consumed alcohol before the meeting took place; and
  • the employer was not entitled to request that the employee undertake an alcohol test according to the workplace policy.

The Authority ordered the employer to pay the employee $43,736 in lost wages and compensation of $19,000 for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.

It is important that employers understand how to carry out disciplinary processes correctly. Failure to do so may lead to expensive grievances.

If there are uncertainties around how to carry out a correct disciplinary process, it is wise to speak with a professional experienced in the area.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-priced Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.


Alan Knowsley