NorthTec has been ordered to pay a former employee more than $45,000 after she was unjustifiably dismissed during a round of redundancies at the tertiary education provider.
Vania Hamlin's employment by NorthTec ended on February 18, 2018. She was dismissed on the grounds of redundancy.
In an organisational review carried out in the later months of 2017 NorthTec disestablished around 90 roles and created around 45 roles. Two of the disestablished roles were held by Hamlin – her substantive position as a personal assistant and a position of programme leader in which she had worked, on a seconded basis, since 2015.
Hamlin sought redeployment to other roles created in the review, but she not successful.
She took her case to the Employment Relations Authority claiming NorthTec had not acted fairly in deciding to end her employment rather than to redeploy her into one of those roles. She said the decisions were contrary to assurances given to her earlier by NorthTec's former chief executive Mark Ewen.
She sought orders for lost wages for the period from February 18 to July 18, 2018 and for compensation for distress resulting from unfair treatment.
In response NorthTec said it had acted appropriately and in compliance with its good faith obligations. It said this included fairly considering Hamlin's redeployment to two roles for which she applied and reasonably deciding she was either not qualified or not suitable for those roles.
In his decision ERA member Robin Arthur found in Hamlin's favour, saying her dismissal for redundancy, and how it decided, were not what a fair and reasonable employer could have done in all the circumstances at the time. Accordingly she had established a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal.
Arthur ordered NorthTec to pay Hamlin, within 28 days, $30,455 (less applicable income tax) in reimbursement of lost remuneration; and $15,000 (without deduction) as compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to her feelings caused by its unjustified actions; and $71.56 in reimbursement of the fee paid to lodge her application in the ERA.
NorthTec argued that alternative positions it interviewed Hamlin for were substantially different from her previous roles, but the ERA ruled that was not correct.
"As a result NorthTec failed to establish that it acted justifiably in how it carried and concluded its process of considering redeployment of Ms Hamlin. The defects in what it did were more than minor and resulted in her being treated unfairly,'' Arthur said in the ruling.
''Her resulting dismissal for redundancy, and how it decided, were not what a fair and reasonable employer could have done in all the circumstances at the time. Accordingly she had established a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal.''
NorthTec has been approached for comment on the case, including asking if it plans to appeal the decision and if there were any other cases pending as a result of the mass redundancy round. However, it had not responded by edition time.