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Employment agreements and contracts

Avoid late night texting to fire staff

An Auckland hairdresser took her case to the Employment Relations Authority after she was sacked by text message in July 2012.

The Employment Court has recently ruled on the process that was undertaken by the employer following a claim for unjustified dismissal.

Jaleace Ormsby began working at Effex Hair and Beauty Salon in January 2012. Within a week the management took the view that Ms Ormsby did not have sufficient experience to justify her hourly rate and her wage was reduced from $25 an hour to $18 an hour.

There were on-going disputes between the salon manager and the hairdresser. Matters came to a head when the manager, Ms Chapman cancelled a holiday in order to work after being told that Ms Ormsby's brother was seriously ill and at death’s door. It was alleged that there was a misrepresentation of this position and a dispute as to the facts. There was a suggestion that Ms Ormsby did not even have a brother.

Ms Ormsby was then told that her hourly rate would be reduced to the minimum wage of $13.50 per hour because of on-going performance related issues. Ms Ormsby left the workplace and did not return for 2 and a half days. This was the final straw for the manager who sent a text at 11.30pm stating that Ms Ormsby was dismissed from her job due to misconduct.

Ms Ormsby claimed she was unjustifiably dismissed and the Employment Relations Authority agreed stating that there was a complete lack of proper process. The Authority did note that Ms Ormsby had contributed to the circumstances and the compensation award was only $500.

The lesson from all of this is that it is too easy to act rashly in the heat of the moment. In all employment matters there is a clear process to follow. It is important to always remember this. Text is never an appropriate way by which to communicate with an employee on disciplinary matters.

Tanya Surrey - Litigation Solicitor
February 2013