Sophie Ryan is a Business Herald digital journalist.

Vodafone sales restructure criticised in employment case

A sales manager has partially succeeded in a claim at the Employment Relations Authority that Vodafone breached its good faith obligations during a restructure. Photo / NZME
A sales manager has partially succeeded in a claim at the Employment Relations Authority that Vodafone breached its good faith obligations during a restructure. Photo / NZME

A Vodafone sales manager who claimed she had been bullied in the workplace and unfairly demoted in a restructure has partially succeeded in her claim at the Employment Relations Authority.

Katie Franich has been employed as a sales manager for Vodafone since 2011. In 2013 Vodafone began a restructure of its sales team following the merger between Telstra Clear and Vodafone in late 2012.

As an outcome of the restructure, Franich's role was changed to a desk-based sales role, dealing with a large number of small customers. Previously she had been in charge of a small number of big customers and was involved in many face-to-face dealings with customers.

After being appointed her new role, Franich raised a personal grievance with Vodafone, saying her former manager had bullied her.

Franich claimed her manager had made inappropriate comments about her weight to other people and undermined her position.

She also raised a grievance about her new role as a result of the restructure.

Vodafone undertook an internal investigation and found Franich had not been unfairly treated.

Franich took a claim with the Employment Relations Authority to determine whether Vodafone's investigation had come to the right conclusion.

Member of the Authority Vicki Campbell found that while there was evidence to support Franich's allegation of workplace bullying, Vodafone had investigated the claim fairly.

"I find the investigation into Ms Franich's allegations, while she was clearly unhappy with the end result, did not lead Vodafone to act unjustifiably in relation to the allegations of bullying," Campbell said in her decision.

However, Campbell found that Vodafone breached its duties of good faith during the consultation period of the restructure.

"In coming to my conclusion I have been critical of the process carried out by Vodafone during the restructuring of the sales team," she said.

Campbell said Franich signed the new employment agreement for the new desk-based role because she felt she had no choice if she wanted to keep a job. She did not have an opportunity to seek independent advice or give feedback.

The new position was significantly different and while Franich did not suffer any financial loss in the restructure she was disadvantaged in the new role.

"Vodafone deliberately denied Ms Franich the opportunity to comment or have any input into the decision to disestablish her role."

Campbell ordered Vodafone to reinstate Franich in a different role that would include face-to-face sales.

Franich sought compensation of $15,000 for the affect the unjustified restructure had on her, and Campbell awarded her $7,000 compensation.

Campbell found Vodafone's actions warranted a penalty of $5,000.

Read the full decision here:

- NZ Herald

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