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Lying During Disciplinary Investigation Leads To Dismissal

Published 01 Jun 2014

On 4 February 2010, a Team Leader at the Auckland Regional Council was dismissed from her employment.

The Team Leader had failed to obtain the necessary approvals before employing a causal employee in the Accounts Payable section at the Council.

During the investigation it carried out, the Council found that the Team Leader's statements were in conflict with those made by other staff members. The Council's investigators became concerned about the trustfulness of the Team Leader's statements as a result.

Subsequently, the Council widened the allegations against the Team Leader to include the alleged untruthfulness. The Employee was advised that the lack of truthfulness was regarded as serious misconduct.

Although the Council found that the original allegation was substantiated, the Team Leader was subsequently dismissed for making untrue statements.

The Employee filed a personal grievance with the Employment Relations Authority which was subsequently removed to the Employment Court. The Employment Court concluded that the Council was entitled to investigate "given the nature of the concerns about the recruitment of the casual Employee contrary to policy and the issues raised about security by virtue of that Employee's access to the Council's systems". The Court also found that the Team Leader was aware of the relevant polices and the breach was only of misconduct.

In relation to the untruthfulness of the statements made by the Team Leader during the investigation, the Judge held that "provided that the requirements of fair process are met, an Employer may identify a concern about truthfulness and deal with that concern in the course of a pre-existing process. Whether the process that was adopted in this case met the minimum standards is answered by a consideration of what in fact occurred, rather than an application of blanket rules".

The Employment Court ultimately concluded that while the initial allegation of failure to comply with recruitment policy was minor however, "the Judge found that considering the circumstances overall, including the allegations of untruthfulness, there was a proper foundation for the Council's finding of serious misconduct".

In dismissing the Employee's claim, the Court of Appeal agreed with the Employment Court. The Court stated "we are satisfied that an Employer may seek to rely on the untruthfulness of an Employee in his or her responses to other allegations of misconduct."

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