Most Read Contributor in New Zealand, September 2016
The Employment Relations Authority decision upholding Guy
Hallwright's dismissal from Forsyth Barr over a road incident
is a reminder to employees that conduct independent of the
workplace can cost you your job.
It also provides some useful guidance to employers on what they
need to prove in order to justify a sacking or other disciplinary
Guy Hallwright was dismissed after being convicted of causing
grievous bodily harm in a traffic dispute with another driver. The
incident attracted much media attention because of Mr
Hallwright's position as a senior investment analyst at Forsyth
Mr Hallwright contested the dismissal, saying that he should not
be held responsible for sensational and inaccurate media reporting
and that, while he personally had been brought into disrepute,
Forsyth Barr had not.
But Forsyth Barr argued successfully that the firm's
reputation had also suffered and that Mr Hallwright had breached
his obligation in his employment agreement not to engage in any
activity that was likely to compromise his ability to carry out his
To dismiss an employee for behaviour outside of work, there has
to be a link between that conduct and the employee's
employment. This test is met where it can be established that the
has damaged the employer's business or its reputation
is incompatible with the proper discharge of the employee's
has affected other employees, or
undermines the necessary trust and confidence between the
In this case, a PR consultant for Forsyth Barr testified that Mr
Hallwright's name being linked to Forsyth Barr would have
caused damage to Forsyth Barr's reputation and that it had the
potential to cause significant ongoing damage.
The Authority accepted this testimony as being sufficient,
without requiring Forsyth Barr to demonstrate any financial
Chapman Tripp comments
The principle that out of work conduct can be grounds for
dismissal is well-established in law, although these cases are
And, in our view, the Authority's analysis is correct. It
was entitled to accept the PR consultant's expert evidence as
being sufficient to get the employer across the line.
It will be interesting to see if Mr Hallwright exercises his
right of appeal to the Employment Court.
Our thanks to Gemma Peachey for writing this Brief
The information in this article is for informative purposes
only and should not be relied on as legal advice. Please contact
Chapman Tripp for advice tailored to your situation.
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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
This WHS decision clarified the interpretation of s 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW).
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