News & Thinking

Do you know what a fair and thorough investigation and disciplinary process looks like?

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Anthony Harper

There has been yet another Employment Relations Authority case where an employee was found to be unjustifiably dismissed due to flaws in the investigation and the disciplinary process.

In this case, a dispatch assistant of a cheese company, who had been employed with the company for 5 years, was dismissed by her employer.

The dispatch assistant was involved in an exchange with another employee. Both employees were made to attend a meeting with HR and apologise to each other as a result of this exchange.

The dispatch assistant continued to feel as though she was being ostracized after the exchange and the meeting. She raised these concerns with her employer and the company CEO got involved in the matter. The dispatch assistant was told to go home after she raised her concerns. She was told to go home while investigations into her concerns took place. A series of meetings followed on from this which resulted in a disciplinary process being initiated against the dispatch assistant which ultimately resulted in her dismissal. She was dismissed for “not fitting in”.

The Employment Relations Authority found that the company did not carry out a full and fair investigation and that a fair and reasonable employer could not have concluded that the employee’s actions constituted serious misconduct. Therefore, the Authority found that the employee was unjustifiably dismissed and awarded her $17,600 compensation as well as lost wages.

The Authority’s main concerns were:

  • No clear allegations were put to the employee
  • No opportunity was given to the employee to respond
  • The relevant evidence was not presented to the employee
  • The impact of the poor investigation process on the disciplinary process

This case highlights the importance of getting the process right from the very beginning. Slip ups at the investigation stage can have a trickledown effect on the overall outcome of the process and ultimately the outcome of an Employment Relations Authority investigation meeting.

If you need any guidance on investigations and/or disciplinary matters, our team would be more than happy to discuss how we can provide assistance.

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