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Waiariki case raises contempt issues
The Employment Relations Authority at Auckland has recently released a decision in the case of Manoharan & Anor v The Chief Executive of Waiariki Institute of Technology. The main issue in the case was whether the dismissal of two employees for serious misconduct was unjustified based on a procedural error.
Obstructing the investigation
The Authority found that sending the initial email instruction, and taking more than 2 weeks to retract it, was a breach of s134A. The standard is that there was potential for the instruction to obstruct the investigation, whether it actually did or not.
Avoiding the same mistakes
This entire chain of events stemmed from a procedural error in what could have been a situation of straightforward dismissal for serious misconduct. This is far from novel and serves as yet another reminder to employers that, regardless of the actions of an employee, the correct procedure must be followed in any disciplinary action for misconduct.
If a claim is made against an employer in the Authority, the employer must carefully manage its response to any requests for information and how it deals with any potential witnesses (including current employees). The duty not to obstruct the investigation coupled with the ongoing duty of good faith may require specific steps be taken or systems put in place to avoid an employer finding itself deemed obstructive.
The information contained in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended as legal advice. It is important that you seek legal advice that is specific to your circumstances.
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