The Employment Relations Authority has ordered an employer to pay $13,000 for unjustifiably dismissing an employee after the employee sent a text message that the employer saw as an act of serious misconduct.

This issue arose because the employee had not been paid on time, and as a result was unable to pay his bills. He had automatic payments set up to pay these bills, but had insufficient funds as a result of his late wage payment.

When the employee discovered that he had not been paid on time, he sent a “nasty” text message to his employer asking for payment so that he could pay his bills.

Two days later, his employer dismissed him over text, stating that the text message requesting payment was an act of serious misconduct and that his services were no longer required.

The ERA decided that the dismissal was unjustified because the employer had not provided any pretence to the dismissal, and there was no opportunity for the employee’s defence to be heard.

This led to the ERA deciding that the decision to dismiss the employee was unfair and was therefore unjustified. The ERA ordered the employer to pay $10,500 to the employee for loss of dignity and injury to his feelings, as well as the wages that he lost as a result of the dismissal. They also ordered the payment of $2,500 to the Crown.

This situation could have been avoided if the employer had taken reasonable steps to try and resolve their issues with the employee before deciding to dismiss. They also should have taken the time to hear the employee’s defence before making the final decision to terminate his employment. Either of these solutions would have saved the employer both time and money in the long run.

If there is confusion regarding how an employee disciplinary process should unfold, it is wise to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.