Former NZ Teradata executive loses employment case

Employment Relations Authority rules in favour of Teradata

Former Teradata South Pacific-Asia area leader Julian Beavis, who took a case to the Employment Relations Authority arguing that his redundancy from that role in 2006 was carried out for non-commercial reasons, has lost the case.

Beavis also argued that the redundancy, which saw the role he formerly occupied replaced by an Australia-based sales role, wasn’t carried our fairly. The authority found in favour of Teradata on that point also.

In a determination earlier this month, which was the culmination of a series of investigation meetings held last year, the authority ruled that Teradata was entitled to disestablish the South-Pacific Asia area leader role and that by establishing the Australia-based sales position, it didn’t effectively re-create the role Beavis was made redundant from.

In the determination, Employment Relations Authority member Robin Arthur noted, “On October 19 2006 Mr Beavis was told Teradata had decided to make his position redundant.

“His personal grievance application alleged the redundancy was not for genuine commercial reasons as his former role has since been re-established.

“He says Teradata failed to properly consult him about the redundancy of the position and failed to properly consider opportunities to redeploy him. He also says Teradata failed to properly respond to his requests for documents relating to his employment and redundancy.

“The issues for determination by the Authority are whether: a. The redundancy of Mr Beavis’ position was for genuine commercial reasons; and b. The redundancy was decided and carried out fairly – that is, not predetermined, after consulting Mr Beavis and fairly considering his responses, and with opportunities for re-deployment properly considered; and c. If not, what remedies are due to Mr Beavis; and d. [If] Teradata should pay a penalty for alleged failure to provide documents.”

The idea of replacing Beavis’ role with an Australian-based sales role was first discussed between Beavis and Teradata Asia-Pacific regional vice president Peter Hand on October 5, and it was noted that 90 percent of Teradata’s existing customers, resources, revenue and new business opportunities were based in Australia.

Hand told Beavis the possible role restructure was not about Beavis’ personal performance.

Beavis was asked for his feedback, and said while he wouldn’t discount moving to Australia, “it would represent a material change in the terms of my employment”.

Beavis offered his view that he doubted whether relocating his role to Australia would help business growth.

Several more communications, including a telephone conference and email exchanges, were held and on October 19, Beavis and Hand met in Sydney and Hand told Beavis his area leader role would be made redundant and a Sydney-based sales manager position established. Beavis’ termination date was set at December 31, and he was not expected to report to the Teradata New Zealand office after November 30.

On December 5, Beavis saw an internal Teradata email advertising the position of Australia-New Zealand general sales manager, based in Sydney. A New Zealand sales manager position was also advertised.

On March 21 2007, Beavis raised a personal grievance with Teradata, saying the redundancy process was a sham and predetermined, and that no consideration was given to redeploying him to the new Sydney-based role, or offering him the opportunity to be considered for it.

Beavis also claimed Teradata effectively recreated the area leader he formerly held, demonstrating a lack of genuine commercial reasons for his redundancy.

On the question of whether the redundancy was for genuine commercial reasons, Robin Arthur noted: “From the evidence of Mr Hand and Mr Beavis, there appears to have been discussion at various levels for some time about whether the area leader should be based in New Zealand.

“Following a visit to Australia in 2005 NCR president Mark Hurd had expressed some reservations about the arrangement.

“Mr Hurd had discussed this with Mr Beavis, Mr Koehler and Mr Hand.”

Hurd subsequently left Teradata to become CEO of Hewlett-Packard, and Teradata was later “spun off” from its parent company NCR.

Arthur took note of the changes at Teradata in the determination, observing that “Teradata, in its closing submissions, acknowledged the business had, by early February 2008, returned to a structure including an area leader role similar to the one held by Mr Beavis and disestablished late in 2006.

“However I accept the evidence of Mr Hand that this resulted from four factors not foreseen or known at the time of the decision to disestablish the role held by Mr Beavis.

“These factors were the ‘spin off’ of Teradata from NCR announced in January 2007, the transfer of Mr Hand to Tokyo in March 2007, a change of role for another manager who wanted to stay in Sydney for family reasons, and the departure of another manager who was dissatisfied about not receiving an appointment to a particular role.”

As to whether the redundancy was carried out fairly, “Mr Beavis submits he was not properly provided with information about the prospect of redundancy and the opportunity to comment on it”. However, the ERA found that there was adequate opportunity. Beavis also claimed that the ultimate decision on the area leader position being made redundant was made not by Hand but by Teradata senior vice president Mike Koehler, and that he didn’t have access to Koehler. The ERA found that it was Hand who made the decision.

Beavis also claimed that established processes within Teradata for making positions redundant, which involved getting prior approval from senior management, for any proposal to eliminate a position, weren’t followed in his case. The ERA found that those procedures were applicable to lower-level staff, not senior executives such as Beavis.

Beavis also submitted that Teradata failed to meet its duty to consider constructive alternatives to redundancy, particularly whether he should have been redeployed to a Sydney-based role, either as area leader or general manager for sales.

The ERA notes “His evidence was that he was prepared to move to Sydney [and] … He says he was neither offered the role in Sydney nor even had a chance to compete for it.

“…In his written witness statement Mr Beavis said he did not apply for the Sydney job because he was told he would not be considered.

“Mr Hand’s evidence was that Mr Beavis asked during the consultation process whether he could apply for the Sydney role and was told he could.”

Beavis said during the ERA investigation that he was “strongly of the opinion, perhaps erroneously, that I would not be seriously considered.”

The ERA noted that in initial discussions between Beavis and Hand about possible eliminating the area leader role, Beavis had indicated he wouldn’t dismiss moving to Sydney out of hand, but that it would be “a material change in my terms of employment.”

The ERA notes “Once Mr Hand had decided that the role of area leader was to be disestablished, Mr Beavis did nothing to indicate an interest in the new sales general manager role in Sydney.

The ERA’s Robin Arthur concluded: “In all those circumstances I find no failure by Teradata of its duty to Mr Beavis to constructively consider alternatives to ending his employment by reason of redundancy.

“For the reasons given I find the disestablishment of the position held by Mr Beavis for genuine reasons and the termination of his employment for redundancy was fairly carried out. His personal grievance application is dismissed.”

After leaving Teradata, Beavis went on to become CEO of Cadmus and then CEO of the payments division of ProvencoCadmus after the merger of Provenco and Cadmus.

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