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Can telling a lie get you fired?

By Claire Mansell - 16 Jun 2014

The Court of Appeal has confirmed that a deliberate lie by an employee during an investigation into misconduct can justify dismissal. The Court recently refused leave to appeal in the case of George v Auckland Council. This case involved the dismissal of a senior employee after her employer concluded that she had lied in her explanations during a disciplinary investigation.

There is reassurance for employers in this decision that a separate investigation into alleged lies is considered unnecessary and unduly complex. An employer will have to follow due process as part of any existing investigation. It remains the case that an employer can't investigate one alleged form of misconduct and then dismiss on a different one that has not been investigated. An investigation into suspected lies would include providing adequate details of the alleged untruth and providing an opportunity to respond. The Court was careful to emphasise that they had in mind something beyond inconsistencies or honest differences in recollection of events.

An example of an employer getting the dismissal process wrong came before the Employment Relation Authority earlier this year in the case of Voss v Regent International Education Group. In that case a teacher was dismissed for lying about leaving a marking schedule for exams on her desk where students could photograph it. Her dismissal was unjustified as she was not given time to respond to the allegations of lying which were brought up at a meeting to discuss the allegation of serious misconduct. She was dismissed at the end of the meeting.

If you suspect an employee of lying during an investigation contact Claire Mansell to see what your next step should be.


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