Case study: Unjustified dismissal

17 April 2020
A teenage girl was awarded more than $3000 after she was found to be subject to an unjustified dismissal from her job at a fish and chip shop in Kaikoura.
Amy Walker was employed as a junior assistant at the Top Shop fish and chip shop in Kaikoura, the Employment Relations Authority said. Ms Walker started working for Gael and Peter Watson at the Top Shop in 2013. A dispute arose when Ms Walker was meant to start a shift at midday on January 16 this year. Although it appeared a series of text messages had been exchanged between the parties, neither were able to produce a full set of text messages, the authority said.
Telephone records obtained by the authority confirmed there were a number of texts and phone calls passed between the parties over this period. The authority found that Ms Walker had sent her manager, Richard Hill, a text message shortly after midday which said: “I’m not coming in. I’m over feeling unappreciated and being put last even though I have been there the longest.” Mr Hill then tried to call Ms Walker, but she sent him a text message and said she was upset and crying and could not call him back.
She said she then sent another text and said she wanted to hand in her notice and finish the week, although Mr Hill claimed he did not receive the text, the authority said. When she did not receive a reply she called Mrs Watson and explained that Mr Hill was difficult to work with, the authority said. Mrs Watson was sympathetic, but told Ms Walker by not showing up for work she had lost her job, the authority said. Ms Walker said Mrs Watson also told her they had replaced her and did not need her to finish out her week. When Ms Walker did not show up for work for the next three days, Ms Watson said she assumed she had resigned.

Authority member David Appleton found that Ms Walker was subject to unjustified dismissal.
“By her words on that day, which included telling Ms Walker that she had been replaced, Mrs Watson terminated Ms Walker’s employment summarily, without giving Ms Walker any opportunity to explain why she had not turned up for work that day, or to explain why she got so upset.” However, Mr Appleton did agree that Ms Walker did owe a duty to her employers to show up to work or give adequate notice to warn them if she could not, and reduced her remedies.
Mr and Mrs Watson were ordered to pay Ms Walker $183 for lost wages, and $3,750 for remedies. Costs were reserved.

If you feel you have been subject to an unjustified dismissal, we urge you to contact us immediately, in confidence.