air nzAn Air New Zealand flight attendant has been forced to surrender Facebook pages and bank account statements by the Employment Relations Authority.

The ERA is hearing Gina Kensington’s personal grievance claim for unjustified dismissal by Air New Zealand over alleged abuse of sick leave in March this year. Kensington claims she took the sick leave to care for her sister.

Air New Zealand responded to her grievance claim by demanding that they be allowed to see her Facebook and bank statements for the dates in question.

Kensington refused, saying Air NZ did not have that information she was dismissed and that “it is well accepted in New Zealand there are general and legal privacy expectations about people’s personal and financial information”.

But the ERA ordered that she hand over the details for March 8 and 9 this year – saying it would provide “substantially helpful” evidence.

“The explanation for taking sick leave must be tested for veracity,” said ERA member Tania Tetitaha.

A hearing into Kensington’s case was held last week but the findings have not been released yet.

Comment

Regardless of the outcome of Gina Kensington’s personal grievance the demand for historical Facebook information and bank statements by the ERA is setting a dangerous precedent. I am siding with Gina that Air New Zealand “did not have that information when they decided to dismiss her”. Surely the grievance is decided on the process that Air NZ followed in deciding to dismiss her and whether or not there was enough evidence at the time to support their decision to end her employment.

For the ERA to back Air NZ and go on what amounts to a fishing expedition of Gina’s personal information in order to test her claim that she took legitimate sick leave seems like a step too far. It is fantastic that the ERA is there to rule on the process and evidence available at the time. For them to effectively carry on the investigation themselves and demand the handing over of what most New Zealanders would see in the case of the bank transaction details as private information is taking our employment relations to a dangerous place.