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WRC awards €10,000.00 for penalisation of hospital worker following bullying complaint

Facts

The Complainant was employed as a multi-task attendant in the Respondent hospital since 1997. The Complainant experienced difficulties, described as hostile behaviour, with a co-worker and informal arrangements were made to ensure both employees were limited in their exchanges and placed on different shifts. A formal complaint was made by the Complainant in July 2015 and was deemed admissible under the Dignity at Work policy.

However, following the complaint, the Complainant was unilaterally moved to a different area of the hospital while the alleged bully remained. It was suggested that the skills of the alleged bully were in short demand.

An investigation was initiated in October 2015, however by March 2016 no progress had been made. No report was ever issued, which had been provided for in the terms of reference and no witness statements or copies thereof were ever provided to the Complainant. A further investigation team was appointed in April 2017, the Respondent contended that 9 dates were offered to the Complainant to proceed with the investigation, which was disputed by the Complainant. Following engagement by the Complainant’s representative the Respondent issued a letter “dismissing his complaints”.

A number of complaints were submitted to the WRC on 1st December 2017, inter alia, under Section 28 of the Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005. It was contended that the complainant was penalised by being redeployed from the ward where he normally worked when he made the formal bullying complaint. He believed that he had been singled out and being moved suggested to him and others that he had done something wrong. He stated that the move impacted upon his family life and his mental health.

Findings

The Adjudicator, found the evidence of the Complainant as a whole was more credible and awarded compensation in the sum of €10,000.00, deeming same just and equitable in all the circumstances.

In evidence the Complainant’s supervisor when asked whether it was unusual that the employee who made the complaint was being moved, she detailed that it was her job to follow instructions, a response which the Adjudicator found extraordinary.

It was further noted that the Respondent, when asked what were the specific qualifications and expertise of the alleged bully, the Respondent was uncertain as to what they actually were.

The Adjudicator noted the circumstances under Section 27(3) in which penalisation is rendered unlawful and include transfer of duties and change of location of work. It was found that a reasonable person would find that the move was a detriment, one which suggested that the Complainant was not believed and was a move that impacted negatively on him.

The Complainant was also awarded €750.00 for the manner in which his complaint was dismissed and a further €1,000.00 for failure to comply with their Dignity at Work Policy.

Link

29th March 2019

Anne O’Connell Solicitors

Fitzwilliam Hall, Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin 2.

www.aocsolicitors.ie

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