Three long-serving teachers awarded compensation after being unjustifiably dismissed by a school's board of trustees will keep the cash despite an error being made in the payment's calculation, the Employment Court has ruled.
Stephen Jackson, Alan Bailey and Linda Dalzell were all assistant principals and part of the senior leadership team at Southland Boys' High School when they were made redundant following a restructure in January 2019.
The trio took grievances against the school's board of trustees to the Employment Relations Authority claiming the restructuring process was flawed and that they had been unjustifiably dismissed.
The ERA found while termination on the grounds of redundancy was genuine, the dismissals were procedurally flawed and unjustified.
Each was awarded a total of $53,679 by the authority which included $28,000 for humiliation, loss of dignity, and injury to their feelings and $25,679 in lost remuneration.
The board challenged the ruling in the Employment Court.
Lawyer Richard Harrison, appearing for the board, confirmed it wasn't contesting the justification of the dismissals based on the authority's factual findings, only the lost remuneration award.
There were also alternative employment opportunities at the school that the trio didn't apply for and when assessing lost remuneration the authority failed to take into account their earnings from other employment after their termination, Harrison argued.
Chief Judge Christina Inglis said in order to assess the alleged errors made by the ERA it was important to look at the facts.
The trio had raised concerns about the proposed restructuring, including that the process was not genuine and the consultation process was unfair.
Each teacher elected to receive a long-service payment calculated using the formula in the collective agreement which was equivalent to 25 weeks' ordinary pay due to their length of service.
They had all tried to find alternative employment but were unable to within three months of their dismissal so they took a personal grievance against the board seeking three months' lost wages.
The ERA found the board of trustees made a number of errors but the most significant was the failure to provide adequate information to the three to enable them to properly engage in the process.
"There were additional failures, including a failure to provide adequate time to respond, a failure to provide submissions and feedback from other staff on a consultation document, and a decision that the three defendants could not apply for two of the positions created under the new structure."
The board of trustees had also predetermined the proposed restructure was right for the school, demonstrating it did not have an open mind and the consultation was a charade, the decision said.
Lawyer Mary-Jane Thomas, appearing for the teachers, submitted the three months' ordinary time remuneration, was unobjectionable and ought to remain undisturbed.
Judge Inglis concluded while the ERA failed to take into account payments made to the trio under a clause in the collective agreement when assessing lost remuneration, the error made no difference to the award ultimately made in their favour.
She found the ERA had not made errors finding the losses suffered by the defendants were causally connected to their personal grievances, or by failing to take into account post-termination earnings when assessing the "lesser of" three months' lost remuneration and the amount lost as a result of the grievance.