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Labour Court increases WRC Compensation Award by €14,000 for pregnant employee Flawed Disciplinary Procedure costs employer €8,500

On 4th March 2019, the WRC awarded €4,500 to a worker for unfair dismissal due to his Employer carrying out a flawed investigation following a physical altercation.

Facts

The Claimant, a General Operative of the Respondent, a Medical Manufacturing Plant was dismissed for gross misconduct on 20th December 2016. A physical altercation had taken place between the Claimant and another employee, Mr. C.

The Production Manager interviewed 13 witnesses and took statements. These statements were circulated to the Claimant and Mr. C. A disciplinary meeting took place on 16th December 2016, it was put to the Claimant that most of the witness statements indicated that he had initiated the altercation and following the meeting the Claimant was dismissed owing to gross misconduct. The Claimant appealed the decision but the appeal was not upheld.

The Claimant contested that the investigation reports were a summary of what each witness had said. There were no dates or signatures on the reports. Furthermore, the Respondent did not give the Claimant any witness statements in advance of the Claimant’s first opportunity to give an account of the incident during the investigation, regardless of the Respondent having these statements for 7 days.

The Claimant also outlined the potential bias of the procedure as the witnesses were mostly colleagues of Mr. C as they worked on the same shift. Two witnesses had also been excluded from the interview process. The Claimant submitted that the Respondent had failed to test the Claimant’s evidence as there was no follow up with witnesses.

The Respondent claimed to have afforded the Claimant with all of his rights under natural justice and the Company’s procedures and that the Claimant was familiar with these procedures. The Claimant had been found by the majority of the witness statements to be the aggressor and on the balance of probabilities they “took the decision to dismiss”.

The Claimant argued that the decision to dismiss was forged at the investigation stage. He had a clean record and contended that the sanction imposed was completely disproportionate to the offence.

Decision      

The Adjudicator illustrated in her decision that many of the challenges raised regarding the dismissal were first raised at the hearing and not during the disciplinary or appeals process. However under section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Act it must be decided if the whole process was underpinned by fairness and natural justice.

The Adjudicator found that the Respondent’s process was flawed by virtue of a narrative construed by anonymous statements of the Claimant’s co-workers during the investigation stage. This deprived the Claimant an opportunity to challenge the evidence and consequently the Adjudicator found the procedure of the Claimant’s dismissal to be unfair.

The Adjudicator did take note of the Claimant’s participation in the altercation, which significantly contributing to his own dismissal in awarding the Claimant €8,500.  

Link

29th March 2019

Anne O’Connell Solicitors

Fitzwilliam Hall, Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin 2.

www.aocsolicitors.ie

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