A court in the United States has forced the identity of at least one former employee of Kiwi toy giant, Zuru Incorporated (Zuru), to be revealed after they posted negative reviews about working for the company online.[1]

The decision itself was ultimately concerned with intellectual property and the privacy of those posting anonymously online, but it serves a global reminder to employers of the importance of ongoing and proper communication with employees about workplace issues. It also raises the question of whether something similar could happen here in New Zealand.

Without a doubt, negative reviews (authentic or otherwise) can have a damning impact on employers and their reputation. However, there are some simple steps that employers can take to maintain a good relationship with employees, or to ensure that there is no bad blood with ex-employees. For example:

  • Informal discussions go a long way – while there certainly is a time and place for formal processes (particularly where conversations may need to be relied on down the line), not all situations call for it. For example, if an employee is late to work three times in a month, a quick side conversation may be enough to nip it in the bud.
  • Keep your lines of communication open to ensure that employees feel comfortable to raise issues and create a culture to the same. This could be as simple as managers having regular catch ups with staff or having an open door policy. It is also particularly important to make sure you are visible to staff and not working from home too often when everyone else is attending the workplace.
  • If an employee has resigned, work with them to decide how it will be announced, whether they will work out their notice period and whether they would like a farewell with their colleagues. We find that these small gestures go a long way in maintaining a good relationship as an employee’s role is coming to an end.
  • Offer exit interviews and ask employees who are leaving, why they are leaving. Exit interviews should be used to frame your thinking as to what might need changing in the future, and not to close the door on a future relationship.
  • Seek advice before taking any steps that may impact on employees. Every situation is unique and when dealing with employee concerns it is important to get it right.

Maintaining a good employment relationship (both during employment and as it comes to an end) can be difficult, however these small steps can make a huge difference.

Our employment team are well versed in assisting with workplace relationship breakdowns, and are on hand to assist in navigating any issues you may be facing.

[1] Zuru, Inc. v. Glassdoor, Inc., 22-mc-80026-AGT (N.D. Cal. Feb. 4, 2022).

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