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Flawed dismissal costs Cafe owner over $30,000

Published 17 Jan 2016

A Christchurch cafe had terminated a member of staff's employment following some ongoing performance issues.

The employer had issued a warning to her earlier in the year for failing to clean fridges despite signing them off as cleaned and talking to other staff regarding starting a new cafe business. Another occurrence of talk regarding setting up a new business got the employee instantly dismissed following a formal meeting.

A following personal grievance and subsequent Employment Relations Authority (ERA) hearing the member found in favour of the sacked employee determining she was disadvantaged and unjustifiably dismissed

"Having an idea for a business is not misconduct. The evidence does not support an actual plan. This was not a situation where Ms Michalewska recruited other employees for a new business," the ruling said.

The ERA further found that the performance-related complaints were not handled properly and questioned whether the employee had been properly warned.

The Member in her decision went on to say: "I accept that Ms Vaughan's (employer) views were genuinely held but the actions and the decision to dismiss were not what a fair and reasonable employer could have done."

"I am not satisfied that a fair and reasonable employer could have concluded there was good reason to summarily dismiss Ms Michalewska" the member stated in summing up.

Failings in both process and justification ended up costing this business $9360 for lost wages and $19,500 in compensation as well as the cost of defending the case.