After images of two employees engaging in a romantic encounter in their office went viral, speculation is mounting around the fate of their employment. HRM speaks to an expert in employment law about the legal issues involved.
The pair were filmed and photographed by patrons in the Carlton Bar and Eatery – and the images went viral after being shared on social media.
"The whole pub knew about it and was watching, while they were totally oblivious to it,” one wrote online.
Grant Milne, chief executive of Marsh, said the company was taking the incident seriously and that the culprits had been identified.
“We know who is involved,” he said. “It's obvious from the photos. “We take these matters very seriously – it's not the type of behaviour we condone.”
“It's very disappointing,” he added.
Stuff reported that executives of the company were due to fly down from Auckland yesterday morning to help deal with the scandal, but no comment has been made as to whether the couple involved have returned to work.
Milne did, however, comment on the embarrassment caused by the circulation of the images.
“One of the challenges of social media is the inability to control things,” he said.
HRM spoke to Glen D’Cruz, solicitor at Corban Revell and an expert in employment law, about the employer’s next moves.
“The likely outcome it’s hard to determine,” D’Cruz told HRM. “Firstly, you’d have to look at the contractual agreement that governs the relationship between employer and employee. The employer will also have to consider company policies that govern behaviours of serious misconduct, as well as what is stated in both employees’ individual contracts.”
D’Cruz added that the other aspect which will affect the employees’ fates is the reputation of the company and how its brand has been damaged.
“Unfortunately for the employees in this circumstance, they’ve reached some pretty wide publication locally and internationally,” he told HRM. “This doesn’t do them any favours, as it has given the employer a lot of leverage in terms of using it against them. It’s really for the employer to determine whether the public interest has brought the company’s name into disrepute, which is dependent on their culture and brand as well as how conservative they are.”
D’Cruz also pointed out that a decision could take some time, as Marsh must comply with legislation.
“Irrespective of all those things, the company is still bound by the Employment Relations Act, which requires an investigation and compliance with penal processes,” he said. “They must also determine what a reasonable employer would do before making any decisions.”