This week the Employment Relations Authority ordered Rocket Lab Limited ("Rocket Lab") to pay $97,000.00 to an employee for an unjustified dismissal.
Mr Owen was employed by Rocket Lab in January 2018 as a Vehicle Test Manager. Rocket Lab did not give Mr Owen an induction, he was essentially expected to 'get on with it'.
A year after Mr Owen commenced employment with Rocket Lab he was called to a meeting with Human Resources. Prior to the meeting, Mr Owen was not told the purpose of the meeting or given any information or documentation to enable him to prepare for the meeting. Nor was he advised that he could he bring a support person or legal representative. At the meeting Mr Owen was dismissed with immediate effect due to "on-going performance concerns". When asked what the performance concerns were, Rocket Lab were unable to provide that information. At the end of the meeting, Rocket Lab presented Mr Owen with a settlement agreement and an offer of $10,000.00 in full and final settlement. Mr Owen refused to sign the agreement and subsequently brought a personal grievance.
The Employment Relations Authority found that Mr Owen had been unjustifiably dismissed and Rocket Lab failed to:
• Engage with Mr Owen. Mr Owen had not had a performance review and he was not told his job was in jeopardy.
• Raise concerns about Mr Owen's performance with him.
• Inform Mr Owen who the decision maker was for the meeting.
• Give Mr Owen an opportunity to bring a support person or a legal representative to the meeting.
• Give Mr Owen an opportunity to comment or respond to the concerns raised at the meeting.
• Follow its own contractual requirements regarding performance management.
Mr Owen was awarded $65,000.00 (30 weeks for actual lost remuneration); $30,000.00 compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings, and a penalty of $2,000.00. In addition, Rocket Lab were ordered to pay $1,000.00 as part of a penalty to the Crown.
Take Home Tips
• Consider putting employees on a performance improvement plan if you have concerns about their performance.
• Ensure you follow the correct procedure when inviting an employee to a disciplinary meeting.
• If in doubt, seek legal advice.
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© McVeagh Fleming 2021
This article is published for general information purposes only. Legal content in this article is necessarily of a general nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require specific legal advice in respect of any legal issue, you should always engage a lawyer to provide that advice.