The Employment Relations Authority has rejected an employee’s personal grievance claim for constructive dismissal, and has ordered the employee to pay over $2000 in damages to the employer.

The employee was on paid leave from work following surgery. During this time he was deemed unfit to work by his doctor. The employer suspected that the employee may still be working, even though he was prohibited from doing so. The employer called the employee notifying him that he was coming to pick up the company car, computer and tablet from the employees house. This call was unanswered, and the voicemail was not heard by the employee.

Upon arrival to the employees’ house, an altercation ensued between the employer and the employee resulting in the employee physically removing the employer from his house. No property was obtained by the employer, and the employee resigned two days later.

The employee then factory reset both his company laptop and tablet, irreversibly deleting client data.

The employee brought the claim for constructive dismissal on the grounds that he felt he had no choice but to resign after the way he was treated by his employer. The employer brought a counter claim for losses arising from a breach of the employment agreement.

In dealing with the constructive dismissal claim, the Authority decided that the employer had not acted outside of what was reasonable in the circumstance. The employer gave notice of the collection of the property to the employee, and wasn’t the instigator of the altercation. The Authority determined that it was not foreseeable that the employee would resign as a consequence of the house visit, and that the claim for constructive dismissal should fail.

The Authority then dealt with the counter claim of damages against the employee. It was decided that the employee had breached his obligation of good faith towards the employer when he deleted company documents off of his work computer.

The employer had to pay for an expert to attempt to recover the data and the Authority subsequently ordered the employee to pay special damages of $2000 to cover the cost of this expert, and a $500 penalty to the Authority for breaching his employment agreement.

If the employee had a better grasp of what his rights and obligations were under his employment agreement, he could have avoided this costly proceeding.

If there is confusion around the correct dismissal process, or employee obligations, it is wise to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.