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April 7, 2008 | by  | in News | [ssba]

ERA: Buchanan’s sacking unjustified

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) recently ruled that the dismissal of Auckland University lecturer Paul Buchanan was unjustified.

Dr Buchanan was sacked last year after sending a strongly-worded email to a postgraduate student, Asma Yamahi, who requested an essay extension after her father allegedly passed away. Dr Buchanan responded, “you are not suitable for a graduate degree” and described Yamahi’s excuse as “culturally driven and preying on some sort of Western liberal guilt.”

“I realise that the original email was too harsh,” Dr Buchanan told Craccum last year. “It was angry and that was a mistake. I wrote her the next day, I apologised and I told her I was having a real bad day and I shouldn’t have lost my temper. She accepted the apology and we agreed that she would give in this late work at some time in the near future.

“I do think the fact that I expressed to her and to the University my very deep remorse and sorrow at doing such a thing would’ve been a mitigating circumstance.”

The University dismissed Dr Buchanan on the grounds of serious misconduct despite his apology.

ERA member Vicki Campbell told the New Zealand Herald that although Dr Buchanan’s email was an instance of misconduct, it did not qualify as serious misconduct. She stated that a fair and reasonable employer would not have dismissed Dr Buchanan under the circumstances.

Dr Buchanan was awarded $51,000 in lost wages and $15,000 for hurt and humiliation, but his job was not reinstated.

Deputy Secretary of the Association of University Staff, Marty Braithwaite, says that “reinstatement was the primary remedy … Given that the dismissal has effectively ended Dr Buchanan’s academic career in New Zealand, we will be considering appealing that part of the decision.”

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