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The WRC award €30,000 for Penalisation due to Protected Disclosure

Workplace Relations Commission: ADJ-00005583
An Employee v Public Body

Facts
The WRC found the failure of a public body to inform its Employee of the removal of a threat to him and his family amounted to unfair treatment. The WRC Adjudicator remarked that this treatment was linked to the Employee having earlier made a Protected Disclosure and therefore he was awarded €30,000.

In early 2015, the Complainant prison officer informed the Respondent that he and his wife came to suspect that they were being watched and were extremely concerned for their welfare. He subsequently learned that Gardaí had advised the Respondent that there was no threat to the Complainant and his family. The Respondent never passed on this information to the Complainant. The WRC Adjudicator found the failure to inform the Complainant constituted unfair treatment and was linked to an earlier Protected Disclosure made by him.

During his employment, the Complainant obtained qualifications and training in food hygiene and basic cookery skills. He submitted that he failed to secure a promotion due to “lack of experience and / or qualifications” despite being number one on the panel. Having felt aggrieved at the lack of promotion, the Complainant raised the matter with various management and other authorities in 2013 and 2014, and ultimately by way of Protected Disclosure on 7th March 2016, which is summarised as follows:
“The assignment of unqualified staff by the respondent to perform tasks requiring qualifications when qualified staff were available constituted an inefficient use of tax payers funds, was not compliant with EC Regulation 852/2014 and that the assignment of unqualified staff in the gym areas was a breach of Health & Safety.”

The Respondent’s Internal Audit Unit investigated the Complainant’s Protected Disclosure and the allegations he made were subsequently dismissed. The Complainant appealed the decision to an External Reviewer and the findings were overturned in February 2017. The External Reviewer found in the Complainant’s favour, stating that “the discloser was treated unfairly and was isolated for making disclosures” and that “his opportunities for career advancement were deliberately curtailed.”

The Complainant submitted numerous examples of penalisation he had to endure by the Respondent, and they were as follows:

  1. The failure to assign him to work in the kitchen
  2. He was assigned to work with staff “much junior” than him, which belittled his standing.
  3. He was subjected to “unnecessary discipline sanction” when it was alleged he failed to report for work. The letter of sanction was subsequently withdrawn.
  4. His pay was stopped for exceeding the sick pay limit. It was meant to have been reinstated but this did not happen
  5. The Complainant submitted that he was advised in June 2016 that “due to his lifestyle choices”, he might be better off with a transfer.
  6. An investigator for the Respondent failed to consult him about a serious incident which he had witnessed.
  7. The treatment of the incident regarding a threat thought to be against him and his family.

Conclusion
The Adjudicator found all above examples of penalisation unsubstantiated or out of time, bar the incident in respect of the security threat. The Adjudicator stated, “local management having knowledge of the removal of the threat to the Complainant and his family since April 2015” and “the failure of management to inform the Complainant…constituted unfair treatment of the Complainant.” This complaint was upheld and the Respondent public body was ordered to pay the Complainant €30,000.

Link: https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/Cases/2018/March/ADJ-00005583.html

For any queries, please contact Anne O’Connell Solicitors at info@aocsolicitor.ie or +353 1 2903580
27th March 2018

Anne O’Connell
Solicitors
1-3 Burton Hall Road
Sandyford
Dublin 18
www.aocsolicitors.ie

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