Cases of interest: July 2017

A summary of interesting or topical employment cases.

NZ Airline Pilots’ Inc v Air NZ Ltd [2017] NZSC 111

Supreme Court – Interpretation of s 214(1) - Jurisdiction of Court of Appeal to hear case

New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association Incorporated (NZALP) sought to enforce a clause in their collective agreement with Air New Zealand Limited. At issue was whether s 214(1) of the Employment Relations Act 2000 precluded a review by the Court of Appeal of the interpretation adopted by the Employment Court.

The Supreme Court were unanimous in concluding that the construction of collective agreements was not off limits all together (see para 47). Jurisdiction exists where the Employment Court has not applied correct principles of interpretation (see para 105). However, as Justice William Young warned, care must be taken as to the distinction between construction based on incorrect principles of interpretation, which is reviewable, and incorrect application of the principles of interpretation, which is not (see para 106).

The majority concluded that jurisdiction had existed and thus the appeal to the Supreme Court should be dismissed (see paras 102 and 147). Justice Glazebrook dissented on the basis that he did not consider the Court of Appeal to have identified any error of principle of contractual interpretation and any errors that did exist were errors of application not interpretation (see para 153).

Link to case (external link)

Re AFT [2017] NZEmpC 88

Employment Court – Whether access should be granted to a protected court file

The Employment Court was asked to consider whether AFT should be granted access to another court file. The file was unrelated to his earlier proceedings before the Employment Court. However, he claimed the file was relevant to proceedings pending under the Human Rights Act 1993. AFT already had access to the Employment Relations Authority decisions and the Employment Court judgement in relation to the matter. However, he sought access to all filings connected with the case, witness lists, transcripts of evidence and recordings of hearings.

The Court noted that access to documents held on file in the Employment Court is not provided for in the Employment Court Regulations 2000 (see para 10). Thus, per regulation 6, the Court may have regard to the provisions of the High Court Rules 2016 when determining whether to grant access (see para 10). In this case, Part 3, Subpart 2 of the High Court Rules was relevant.

The Court declined the application on the basis that the need to protect confidentiality and privacy outweighed the wider principle of open justice (see para 19).

Link to case (external link)

Hynds Pipe Systems Ltd v Forsyth [2017] NZEmpC 89

Employment Court – Refusal to comply with search order

The Employer was concerned that a previous employee may have removed confidential information when he resigned to work for another company. The employer obtained search orders on a without notice basis but the previous employee refused to co-operate. At issue was whether the Court had jurisdiction to find the previous employee in contempt of a search order.

The Court held that jurisdiction existed to punish contempt for breach of a search order made by the Court (see para 74). It was held that this power was reinforced by the nature and scope of the Court’s statutorily conferred jurisdiction and, in the alternative, existed as an inherent power to enable the Court to effectively manage and dispose of matters before it and to prevent abuse of its processes (see para 74).

Link to case (external link)

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