The Napier City Council has been ordered to pay more than $50,000 to a former employee in redundancy compensation, the Employment Relations Authority has determined.
The authority has released its determination on a dispute between the council and its former stormwater asset manager, Scott Estcourt.
A hearing was held on this matter in Napier in March. Central to this was a council restructure last year, which sought to disestablish 78 roles to make way for 78 new ones.
Mr Estcourt was one of several employees to raise personal grievances over the restructure. He claimed he was unjustifiably disadvantaged, and unjustifiably dismissed by the council.
In his determination authority member Marcus Loftus wrote that Mr Estcourt said the disadvantage arose from how the council had disestablished his position, and attempted to "coerce" him into an inappropriate replacement position without redundancy compensation.
"NCC's conduct in this respect led Mr Estcourt to conclude his employment agreement had been breached to such an extent an ongoing relationship was no longer viable. That, in turn, led to a claim of unjustifiable dismissal, albeit constructive."
The council denied the claims had validity.
"It is of the view the dismissal was the result of a legitimate redundancy which was handled properly. NCC denies Mr Estcourt was disadvantaged as he was offered a suitable alternate which removed the obligation to pay redundancy compensation," Mr Loftus wrote.
Mr Estcourt was appointed to the role in November 2012, and occupied one of three water-related council positions.
In July 2016 he was advised his role was to be disestablished by the restructure, and that the council wanted to discuss options including redeployment.
He raised his first personal grievance in August, alleging no alternative equivalent positions were offered at the time.
His legal counsel later wrote to the council stating a new position being offered - of "three water lead" was "not an alternate equivalent position within the Napier City Council with no less favourable conditions".
"Mr Estcourt did not wish to accept redeployment to what he saw as a lesser role and that as result he considered himself redundant."
Mr Loftus dismissed Mr Estcourt's claims of being unjustifiability dismissed.
He noted by early August 2016 Mr Estcourt "had decided he was disenchanted with NCC and wanted out".
"His evidence makes it clear his desire to leave was based on a view he was unlikely to be redeployed into a job he considered the equivalent of that he held before the restructuring."
The council could not held responsible for Mr Estcourt choosing to disengage from the process.
"Nor can it be said NCC acted in a manner designed to induce the resignation or otherwise destroy the employment relationship. Indeed NCC was trying to maintain the relationship if only to save a redundancy payment."
Mr Loftus was also unconvinced Mr Estcourt had been unjustifiability disadvantaged in his employment.
However, Mr Loftus found the former employee was entitled to redundancy compensation, and ordered the council to pay $50,433.90 to Mr Estcourt.
The council felt that "when assessed on an objective basis, the new position offered was of equal importance and value, and it matched exactly, levels of skill experience, education and autonomy.
"That means, at least from NCC's perspective, Mr Estcourt was offered an alternative equivalent position ... with no less favourable conditions and is not entitled to compensation."
However, Mr Loftus agreed with Mr Estcourt's belief that the new role - three water lead - was not an equivalent position to his former role.
Mr Estcourt had found a new job by the time he left the council in October 2016.