The Employment Relations Authority has ordered an employer to pay over $20,000 after unjustifiably dismissing an employee due to complaints from clients.

The employer received several complaints from clients regarding the employee’s breach of health and safety procedures, and some clients refused to have the employee back on their premises.

The employer notified the employee of this in a letter, requesting a meeting with him regarding those issues. Over two months later, no meeting had been held and the employee was dismissed.

The employee received a letter stating the reasons his employment was being terminated, which included the previous outlined complaints. The letter also claimed that the employee had been offered alternate methods of work, but that the employee had refused.

The Authority held that this was an unjustified dismissal, as the employer had not followed what was fair and reasonable in the circumstances. The Authority found that the employer had sufficient resources to follow the correct procedures, but had failed to do so.

The employee was not provided with any details of the clients’ complaints, nor was he given a chance to respond to those complaints. The employer also failed to arrange a meeting to discuss the employment issues despite having two months to do so.

The Authority found that the employee was justified in rejecting alternate methods of work, as that was not in his employment agreement. The employer also gave conflicting evidence as to whether they actually believed the client complaints were severe enough to justify termination.

The employer provided evidence that the termination was actually due to the company’s financial issues, and not solely because of the complaints. The Authority did not accept this justification, as this reason had not been explained to the employee. Further, it did not justify bypassing a fair and reasonable process for dismissal.

The Authority ordered the employer to pay over $3,000 in compensation for lost wages, and $18,000 for the sudden and adverse nature of the termination.

There are important procedures which must be followed when terminating an employment agreement. If you are unsure of your obligations, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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