Clowning around’s no joke

An employee invited a clown to attend a meeting as his support person

When Mr Thompson received an email from his employer’s HR department inviting him to a meeting, he sensed a redundancy process was fast approaching. Trying to make the best out of a bad situation, Mr Thompson paid “Joe the Clown” to attend as his support person. Joe the Clown made animal balloons throughout the meeting and mimed crying when paperwork was handed to Mr Thompson. Although the employee reported that his employers could see the humorous side of the situation, Mr Thompson did ultimately lose his role.

In New Zealand, employees are entitled to bring a support person or representatives to meetings, for example disciplinary meetings or meetings to discuss potential redundancies. While employees ordinarily bring a family member or trusted friend as a support person, there is no basis for an employer to prevent employees bringing the support person of their choice.

Ultimately, employers should allow their employees to bring the support person of their choosing to ensure the employee feels comfortable (outside of individuals who may have a conflict of interest). However, employers are in the driving seat during meetings with their employees and do not have to tolerate disruptive behaviour. For instance, after Joe the Clown had made a balloon unicorn and a balloon poodle he was told to stop as the squeaking was loud and distracting. Perhaps Mr Thompson thought the balloons were a nice jester!

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