ERA: Courier driver's dismissal over vehicular accident unjust

Employment dispute stems from a vehicular accident

ERA: Courier driver's dismissal over vehicular accident unjust

A courier driver has won more than $25,000 after the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) ruled that she unjustifiably dismissed by her employer after getting involved in a vehicular accident.

Carol O'Connor was a courier driver employed by Noel Symons from December 2020 until her dismissal in July 2021.

Symons is a New Zealand Post contractor with the responsibility of delivering the mail and courier parcels in Gore and surrounding areas.

Employment dispute

Their employment dispute began when O'Connor got involved in a single vehicle accident while reversing a courier van down a driveway. No injuries nor damage to the vehicle were reported.

The lefthand side of the van hit a concrete barrier located at the beginning of the driveway, partially dislodging the lefthand bumper as a result. According to the courier driver, the van skidded as she drove up the driveway, which she said was partially wet with leaves in places.

But Symons doubted the authenticity of O'Connor's story, saying there was "no evidence of the van sliding sideways" and disputed that the leaves were a factor to the accident.

Symons also got "extremely angry" at O'Connor when she went to apologise again, suggested that the reason for the accident was her "incompetence," and threatened to get a police report on the incident.

O'Connor then said she would not return to work until she received the police report and an apology from Symons.

Disciplinary meeting, termination

The day after, O'Connor said she was invited by Symons to a meeting days after to discuss the incident but wasn't informed that the meeting was disciplinary.

Symons said in the meeting that he wanted to know the facts of the accident so their employment relationship, but O'Connor told the ERA that her employer was "very dismissive" during the meeting, and she felt "uncomfortable."

That same evening after the meeting, Connor was informed that she was getting terminated "under serious misconduct."

"Email sent. Sorry Carol but looking at the evidence I cannot keep employing you," Symons told O'Connor as reflected at the ERA.

When asked further by O'Connor, Symons responded saying the termination was based on "serious misconduct."

"You have breached my trust, you have also breached the reputation of my business," O'Connor was told.

Unjust dismissal declared

But the ERA decided that the termination was not justified.

The ERA said Symons carried out an "unfair and inadequate inquiry" on the vehicular accident.

"I find the inquiry carried out by Mr Symons, including evidence of predetermination and failure to properly investigate, was not what a fair and reasonable employer would have conducted, and therefore the decision to dismiss her, with all the attendant uncertainty surrounding the reason or reasons for this, could not have been properly reached," the ERA ruled.

The authority then ordered Symons to pay O'Connor $20,000 as compensation for hurt and humiliation, and $5,974 as reimbursement for lost wages.

Recent articles & video

Where's your loyalty? Assistant fired for communicating with ex-manager

Air traffic control trainees now considered employees

Why are many employers not offering mental health days?

Rising COVID-19 cases puts pressure on public health: report

Most Read Articles

Fonterra to pay almost $40,000 for 'unjustifiable' dismissal of veteran employee

Former principal suspended for inappropriate conduct

Unjustified dismissal: Oranga Tamariki to pay youth worker nearly $30,000