The Employment Relations Authority has rejected a personal grievance claim for unjustified dismissal of a branch manager who was sacked for serious misconduct after he rented accommodation in his company’s name.

The manager rented the accommodation and told the letting agency that he was arranging accommodation for another manager who was moving over from Australia to New Zealand.  No such manager existed and he lived in the property himself with his family.  The company name was down on the lease as tenant and payments were made in the company’s name although these were actually paid personally by the manager.

The employer followed a good process in dealing with the matter.  It raised the issue of suspension with the manager and gave him an opportunity to comment on suspension before it decided to suspend.  It also told him what the allegation was and provided him with a fair opportunity to respond to the allegation.  When he attended the disciplinary meeting, without representation, it reminded him of his right to be represented and gave him an opportunity to seek representation, which he declined.

After concluding that the manager had been dishonest in his actions by renting the premises in the company name, it indicated to him that this was serious misconduct and that it was looking to dismiss him, and gave him an opportunity to comment on that proposed action.

The ERA held that the company’s actions were what a reasonable employer could do in the circumstances and that they were justified in dismissing the manager.

The ERA said that even if it had found flaws with the company process, that the manager’s actions were so bad, he would have had no remedies, even if he had been unjustifiably dismissed because of some process issue.

It is really important to not only be able to justify your decisions on the facts, but also to follow a fair and reasonable process in arriving at conclusions and giving the employee every opportunity to respond fairly to any allegations before decisions are made as the employer did in this case.

Alan Knowsley
Employment Lawyer