University ordered to pay $7000 legal costs

The University of Otago has been ordered to pay $7000 legal costs in the case of a former staff member found to have been unjustifiably dismissed.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) ordered the university to pay legal costs, after it last year found former head of marketing services Kerry Kirkland was unjustifiably dismissed and unjustifiably disadvantaged by the university - ordering it to pay $12,465.75 for lost wages and emotional damages.

In a written decision, ERA member David Appleton rejected the university's argument costs should ''lie where they fall'' or be significantly lower than $7000 - which was the normal amount of costs given for a two-day ERA case.

Counsel for university argued it should either pay no or reduced legal costs on the basis Dr Kirkland had considered challenging the decision - meaning she was not the successful party - and the bulk of time at the investigation meeting was spent on allegations not upheld by the ERA.

He also rejected calls from Dr Kirkland's counsel for legal costs of $26,099.23. Dr Kirkland's counsel had argued for the increased amount due to a number of factors including the ''complexity'' of the case and because it was ''daunting'' to fight an organisation such as the university.

In rejecting arguments from both parties, Mr Appleton said he saw no ''cogent reason'' to either award a greater or reduced amount than the normal daily tariff of $3500 a day - totalling $7000 for a two-day case.

The case was no more complex than many unjustified dismissal cases and while Dr Kirkland was not ''wholly successful'', she was still the successful party, he said.