Auckland company’s lack of internet policy costs $5000

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In a recently released decision, the Employment Relations Authority found that an Auckland woman sacked for overusing the internet at work was unfairly dismissed.

Printek Supplies fired Antonia Knight last year, alleging that she engaged in excessive internet use and personal business during working hours.

Although the company noted that the majority of Knight’s work was internet-based, her employers raised concerns about the amount of time she spent on Facebook. She also ran two small personal businesses from her computer in the office during working hours.

Knight’s former employer was alerted to her behaviour after customers complained about connectivity problems when trying to communicate with the company via telephone.

However, the employee had deleted her internet browser history, erasing the evidence which could have supported the claims.

In November 2013, she agreed to a new employment agreement, which had a reduced salary and hours.

In her decision, authority member Tania Tetitaha pointed out several flaws in the company’s dismissal of Knight.

Tetitaha said that the employer had failed to raise concerns prior to the dismissal decision, and did not give Knight the opportunity to respond.

The authority member also noted that Printek Supplies had no policy on internet use – thus Knight’s behaviour could not be defined as misconduct that a fair and reasonable employer could have dismissed her for.

Tetitaha ordered the company to pay its former employee $5000 in compensation.

Knight was also seeking remedies for lost wages and paid parental leave, but was denied these by Tetitaha, due to her making minimal effort to find alternative employment and being unaware of her pregnancy at the time of her dismissal. 

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