Firm to pay compo for firing 'liar'

ARIELLE MONK
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2014

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A company that dismissed a Christchurch man for lying about serious criminal convictions on his job application has been ordered to pay $6750 in compensation and 75 per cent of three months' wages.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) ruled the company had not given the employee a chance to respond to the concerns and their dismissal was unjustified.

The man had worked for the company from 2000 until April last year, when it was discovered he had lied on a job application about his convictions. He was dismissed after the discovery for providing "untrue and incorrect" information on the application.

In a letter confirming the dismissal, a manager said the company would not have offered him employment had it known about the offending. He also said the employee's crimes, which occurred in the early 1990s, were serious, and were at odds with the company's culture and values.

The man has name suppression to protect the identity of the victims of those crimes.

The ERA said the disciplinary process was resolved unfairly, and said it was apparent management had decided dismissal was the appropriate response early, without allowing the employee "an opportunity to have his say".

The employee's legal counsel said in a letter to the company her client was not exactly sure what management's concerns were.

After an initial meeting with management and human resources, the employee became so agitated staff feared for his safety. He was later driven to his GP by the human resources adviser.

During that meeting the man said Work and Income had advised him not to disclose his convictions, and that he was not required to so if the convictions were from more than seven years prior.

The ERA said he had misunderstood this information, as the Criminal Records Act 2004 does not apply to convictions that resulted in prison sentencing.

Christchurch employment law specialist Tim McGinn said there were "unusual aspects" to both this case and the ERA decision.

"The problem this employer had was that the procedures they followed were a bit loose. There doesn't appear to have been a full disciplinary meeting where these issues were properly thrashed out."

If it was inevitable the employee would be dismissed if a fair process had been followed, remedies would not usually be awarded. But in this case, the ERA member decided the matter was not serious enough to warrant certain dismissal.

"Not many employers would consider that they could employ an employee against that background," McGinn said. The ERA also awarded three months of reduced income because of a 12-week stand down the employee faced after applying for a sickness benefit following his dismissal.

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