INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
- AND -
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Alleged unfair dismissal.
2. The dispute concerns a worker who was employed by the Company, which is involved in the provision of editorial services, as a desk editor, from the 15th of September, 1997 until her employment was terminated on the 28th of October, 1997. The worker claims that her dismissal was arbitrary and unjust, that she had received no prior warning of impending dismissal and had been given no indication that her work had been unsatisfactory in any way. She claims further that she had not been permitted to explain her side of matters and that the Company's managing director had used hearsay to support his conclusions in relation to her employment.
The Company rejects the claim of unfair dismissal stating that an incident during which a colleague of the worker's was verbally abused was the culmination of an unsatisfactory period during which the worker's work and attitude were unacceptable. The Company added that the worker was paid 1 week's pay in lieu of notice and received all entitlements due to her.
The worker referred the matter to the Labour Court, on the 30th of March, 1998 in accordance with Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1969. The Court carried out its investigation, in Limerick, on the 18th of August, 1998.
While the worker made a written submission to the Court, she did not attend the hearing. The Company made a written submission to the Court, which was expanded upon orally during the course of the hearing. In addition, the Company provided the Court with a number of written statements from witnesses some of whom were cross-examined during the course of the hearing.
3. 1. On a number of occasions the worker was the subject of vicious bullying and harassment by a colleague and this caused her considerable humiliation and trauma. Such incidents included aggressive and demanding behaviour in relation to her work and remarks about her personal appearance. The colleague's behaviour was sadistic and her tone sarcastic.
2. No formal training programme was instigated on the commencement of the worker's employment and no progress reports were given to her at any time about her work/output.
3. The summary dismissal of the worker and her being ordered off the premises were completely unjustified and she was given no opportunity to defend herself against allegation levelled against her. No grievance procedure was followed by the Company.
4. The Company failed to provide the worker with a correct contract of employment despite numerous requests.
5. The bullying incidents and summary dismissal have caused the worker immense psychological stress and considerable loss of face. She also had incurred much expense in relocating from Dublin to Ennis (details supplied to the Court).
4. 1. The Company was within its rights to dismiss the worker. She had been guilty of serious misconduct. The nature of her attack which was both verbally and physically intimidating was not acceptable under any circumstances (details supplied to the Court). The attack was the culmination of a number of incidences and an overall poor performance.
2. The worker was provided with a contract, albeit one that contained an incorrect date due to an administrative oversight. This contract clearly stated that the employee was subject to dismissal without notice for serious misconduct, and at company discretion at any time during her probation. The worker was employed on a probationary period which is standard procedure with the Company. It was made clear to her that termination of that probationary period was at the discretion of the Company.
3. The worker was requested to leave the Company premises immediately on the termination of her employment for the reason that, due to her previous volatile behaviour, it was adjudged that she might seek retribution against other members of staff or Company properly. Her presence in the Company following her attack on her colleague was having an unsettling affect on all the staff, and in particular on the colleague in question.
4. The claim that there was lack of training is rejected. The worker was trained by colleagues on a structured informal hands-on basis.
In the course of the hearing it became apparent that certain deficiencies in the procedures operated by the Company may have been a contributory factor in the events which culminated in the termination of the claimant's employment. While these deficiencies alone were not such as to render the dismissal unfair, had they not been present events might not have developed as they did.
It is noted that the Company did indicate willingness to make an ex-gratia contribution towards certain expenses incurred by the claimant in taking up the employment. The Court recommends that the dispute before it be disposed of on the basis that the claimant accepts that the termination of her employment was not unfair as it occurred within the agreed probation period. The Company should, without admission of liability, increase its offer of an ex-gratia payment to £500.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
10th September, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.