Guy Hallwright's next move in ForBarr job saga

Senior research analyst Guy Hallwright (pictured) will appeal an Employment Relations Authority’s decision against his reinstatement at broking firm Forsyth Barr.

And an employment law specialist says it is not unusual for the Employment Court to give a completely different decision to the ERA.

Hallwright confirms his appeal has been filed at the Employment Court – a month after he found out he would not get his job back as a senior research analyst at the firm.

ERA member Rosemary Monaghan decided Forsyth Barr was justified in dismissing Hallwright from the firm last year after his highly-publicised criminal  conviction of causing grievous bodily harm with reckless disregard following a motoring incident in 2010.

The incident left a man with two broken legs after Hallwright hit him with his car.

Hallwright was dismissed in September and took Forsyth Barr to the ERA in December, seeking his job back or $600,000 in lost earnings.

But Ms Monaghan decided Forsyth Barr’s conclusion the conviction compromised Hallwright’s ability to carry out the job was one a fair and reasonable employer could have reached.

No date has yet been set for the appeal, where Hallwright will re-argue the incident was not work related and did not affect his duties analysing listed companies.

Hallwright told NBR ONLINE he did not have anything to say about his decision to appeal just yet, as he was “still working through things”.

Forsyth Barr managing director Neil Paviour-Smith says it is not appropriate for him to comment on the appeal while the matter is before the court.

Employment lawyers regarded Ms Monaghan’s decision as a lesson the employment watchdog is taking reputational damage seriously.

It demonstrated Forsyth Barr, did not have to prove it had suffered actual loss after Hallwright’s conviction, and the ERA will consider a range of evidence in deciding whether an employer’s reputation has been damaged.

It was also a lesson to all employees, particularly senior executives, that actions outside the workplace can be sufficient, in certain circumstances, to justify dismissal.

Hallwright’s conviction followed an altercation in Mt Eden, outside working hours, in September 2010.

What are Hallwright’s chances at an appeal?

Employment law partner John Rooney, of Simpson Grierson, says the Employment Court will rehear the entire case without reviewing, or taking into account, the authority’s decision.

And it is not unusual to see Employment Court judges give a determination that is completely different to the ERA, he says.

“The arguments often get presented differently in the court as the losing party has worked out a different way to present their arguments to court.”

The appeal will certainly be an expensive process – Employment Court hearings usually take twice as long as those before the ERA – so Hallwright’s legal bill could be at least double.

Read more legal opinion about the Hallwright decision here

gbond@nbr.co.nz