Workplace Relations Commission: Man who was bullied at work awarded €26,000
A man who was subjected to bullying by a senior member of staff has been awarded €26,000 in compensation in the Workplace Relations Commission.
Describing the events, some of which had been filmed and posted on Facebook, as “an extraordinary culture of behaviour in the workplace”, Adjudication Officer Gerry Rooney was satisfied the complaint under Section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 was well founded.
From August 2015 until September 2016, the Complainant was employed as a Generative Operative with the Respondent Winter Services Company on a salary of €500 per week. In his complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission, he maintained he was subject to bullying behaviour and ill treatment during his employment – providing evidence of a number of incidents where such behaviour had taken place.
In general, the Complainant presented a scenario where the workplace was a place where he was constantly subject to slagging off and dismissive behaviour from the Service Manager and some of his colleagues.
- Being blamed by the Service Manager for not fulfilling duties which were in fact the duties of the Service Manager, who would then indicate that he had spoken to the Managing Director so that Complainant would not get into trouble;
- References by the Service Manager in relation to the Complainant’s mental health, asking the Complainant if he had taken his tablets, and whether this was the reason for mistakes;
- Overhearing the Services Manager saying to the Managing Director that the way to treat the Complainant was to knock him down so that he would be built up stronger than before;
- A fear that he would lose his job if a complaint was made as the Services Manager referred to the business as his son’s company;
- Being told to go home and take Prozac;
- Being told where the gate was if he raised concerns;
- Having perfume sprayed on him by the Service Manager and being told “let’s see how you explain that when you get home”;
- Being referred to by the Service Manager as his “bitch”.
Supporting evidence included photographs, Facebook postings, and a video posted on Facebook where the Service Manager sprayed fire extinguisher at the Complainant while he was working under a vehicle. When the fire extinguisher video was posted on Facebook and it became known to members of a motor cycle club that he, the Service Manager and other staff were members of – the President of the club expelled the Service Manager from the club as a consequence of the behaviour.
The situation came to a head in September 2016, when the Service Manager subjected the complainant to slagging following a dispute over a power washer, and asked the Complainant to provide medical certification for his fitness to drive.
As the Service Manager was aware of the Complainant’s mental health issues, this was upsetting for the Complainant and led to an argument ultimately resulting in the Complainant leaving the workplace for the day.
Thereafter, the Complainant made a formal complaint to the Managing Director via email, outlining the Service Manager’s bullying, stating that it had gone too far, and that he loved his job and should not have to put up with the service manager’s behaviour. The following day, he was off sick and received an email from the Managing Director requesting a meeting the following day. When he arrived at the meeting, which was also attended by the Services Manager, he was presented with a list of grievances against him which he maintained were false and not put to him before the meeting.
The Complainant advised he was not afforded any fair procedures at this meeting and was not given an opportunity to defend himself.
As a consequence, he left the meeting. He advised that he received an email from the Respondent on the same date terminating his employment with immediate effect.
Extraordinary culture of behaviour in the workplace
The Adjudication Officer did not accept submissions from the Respondent that the Complainant had resigned from his position when he left his place of work that day, finding that it was clear that the Complainant had emailed the Managing Director advising him as to why he left that day and had not submitted any resignation. It was clear that the Respondent had in fact dismissed the Complainant.
The Adjudication Officer said what appeared to have occurred demonstrated an extraordinary culture of behaviour in the workplace, where the Service Manager appeared central to a lot of the actions that the Complainant submitted was undermining for him. He said that it was significant that the Complainant emailed the Managing Director to raise his concerns about what he had been experiencing, and that what occurred next was a disciplinary meeting followed by an offer of alternative employment in seasonal driving.
Furthermore, the Complainant was not advised in advance that the meeting was to be a disciplinary meeting, he was not accompanied, he was not aware in advance of the meeting of the allegations against him that were to be discussed, and his concerns of bullying behaviour against the Service Manager was not addressed or considered.
In the circumstances, the Adjudication Officer found that the Respondent failed to adhere to any fair procedures or the principles of natural justice before issuing the dismissal notice to the Complainant – and breached the guidelines as issued in S.I. No. 146 of 2000, Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures (Declaration) Order 2000.
Pursuant to Section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977, the Adjudication Officer found this complaint to be well-founded and concluded that the Complainant was unfairly dismissed by the Respondent.
With regard to the financial loss as a consequence of the unfair dismissal, the Adjudication Officer was satisfied the Complainant’s medical report indicated that his inability to work was a consequence of the unfair dismissal. In all the circumstances, the Adjudication Officer considered it just and equitable to award the Complainant a total of €26,000 in compensation for his loss.
The complainant submitted a complaint under the Protected Disclosure Act which the Adjudication Officer said was made as an alternative, and that having heard the complaint under the Unfair Dismissal’s Act he did not consider it appropriate to hear it again under the Protected Disclosures Act.
The Adjudication also found that as the complaint was considered under the Unfair Dismissals Act it was not subject to a finding under the Industrial Relations Act.
- by Seosamh Gráinséir for Irish Legal News