Can casual employees be unjustifiably dismissed?
Casual employment is a concept that is often misunderstood. It is not uncommon for employers to treat these employees as if their employment can be terminated at will. However, as the case of Surplus Brokers Limited v Armstrong shows casual employees still have the same protections against unfair dismissals.
Mr Armstrong was employed on a casual basis to help the employer at a trade show from Thursday to Sunday. During the show Mr Armstrong was sharing a hotel room with another salesman, Mr R. On Saturday night Mr R threatened to kill Mr Armstrong because of his snoring. The two men had a confrontation, and Mr Armstrong had to leave the hotel room. He called the police and spent the night sitting in a work car.
The next morning, the employer was told of the altercation. Mr Armstrong was told to catch up on sleep in the work vehicle. Instead, Mr Armstrong caught the bus home. The employer discovered a hotel mirror had been broken in the confrontation and text Mr Armstrong “you have let me down badly. Please leave your company shirts at Otahuhu hq.”
The Court concluded that Mr Armstrong had been unjustifiably dismissed because the employer had not investigated the incident at all prior to dismissing him.
Casual employees work ‘as and when’ required and have no expectation of ongoing work beyond the conclusion of an engagement. However, this does not mean that they can be dismissed without cause and without following a fair process. It is important to remember that while casual employees are employed, their rights are the same as any other employee. Casual employees may not be unjustifiably dismissed.
If you have any questions or queries in relation to this topic, please get in touch with the Watermark team directly. We are happy to advise you.