Orchestrated dismissal? Worker claims 'conflict' with employer before redundancy

Authority considers 'overall justice' amid reinstatement request

Orchestrated dismissal? Worker claims 'conflict' with employer before redundancy

The Employment Relations Authority recently dealt with the case of a worker who requested reinstatement, alleging that his dismissal was “orchestrated” to seem like a redundancy.

The worker was employed by the Joan Fernie Charitable Trust Board (JFCT), initially as a Shephard General in 2018 and later as a Fencer General in 2019, operating at Chesterhope Station.

A restructuring proposal was communicated to the worker on 4 October 2023, involving the merger of two station blocks and the creation of a new role of Livestock Manager, resulting in the worker's position being deemed redundant.

Position made redundant

Following a confirmation meeting on 10 November 2023, the worker received notice of termination due to redundancy, effective 15th January 2024. Despite applying for the newly created stock manager role, the worker was not selected.

The latter contested this decision by lodging a statement of problem, seeking permanent reinstatement for unjustified dismissal under the Employment Relations Act 2000.

The worker argued that their role extended beyond fencing, encompassing duties previously held by the farm manager, Malcolm McDonald, since June 2021.

According to records, these tasks allegedly included contractor management, security oversight, and livestock movement. The worker also lived on the farm, provided accommodation as part of the employment agreement since 2019, with terms for vacating the property upon termination.

The worker claimed a disagreement with Michael Barham, Chairperson of the JCFT, on 2nd October 2023, just prior to the restructuring announcement. Subsequently, the worker received notification of the impending redundancy without any redeployment options or vacancies.

Thus, the worker asserted that the restructuring process was misused to orchestrate their dismissal, allegedly driven by claims of misconduct and performance issues.

The worker also said the employer's process was unfair and unreasonable since they were not provided with pertinent information regarding the proposed restructuring, depriving them of the opportunity to offer meaningful input.

Ultimately, the worker requested immediate reinstatement, considering the circumstances.

Should the worker be reinstated?

The Authority said that the worker “has been performing work at Chesterhope for a reasonably significant period of time and resides on the farm.”

“He has performed farm work of some value for the duration of that time, and standing back from the case. The overall justice requires that the worker be reinstated on an interim basis.”

Consequently, the Authority ordered the employer to reinstate the worker and further referred the matter to case management.

Recent articles & video

'Unpaid' worker claims constructive dismissal

Manager wins over $22,000 for unjustified disadvantage, dismissal

How criminal charges impact employment investigations

New Zealand employers ready to pay more for employees with AI skills

Most Read Articles

Recap: Winners of the 2024 HRD Awards New Zealand

Best practice for handling fixed-term agreements in New Zealand

Couple to pay over $94,000 for wage violations