INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
LMB SOCK CREATION LIMITED
- AND -
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Alleged Unfair Dismissal.
2. The worker was employed by the Company from the 27th of April, 1998 (the date the Company was set up) to the 13th of November, 1998, when, she claims, she was unfairly dismissed. The Company is located in Mullingar.
On the 27th of April, the Company consisted of a management team of 2, the worker concerned and a second worker. The Company is involved in the designer sock business, which the worker specialised in. She had previously worked with one of the management team in a competitor company for 5 years.
The worker claims that once the Company was set-up, she found that she was being increasingly isolated. She was not consulted about changes which affected her work. The worker could not understand why management's attitude to her had changed.
The worker claims that she was dismissed because of 2 telephone calls - one to a person still employed in the competitor company who had sent her a present. She mentioned to this person that she was joining LMB Limited. The second telephone call was to a previous employee in the competitor company. During the conversation, the worker mentioned that the boiler was not working and that her office was very cold as a result. Following these 2 incidents, relationships at the Company became worse and eventually resulted in her dismissal.
The Company claims that the worker was dismissed for gross misconduct i.e. 2 breaches of confidentiality. This involved the 2 telephone calls that the worker had made in which, the Company claims, she gave out vital information concerning the Company.
The worker referred her case to the Labour Court on the 26th of November, 1998, in accordance with Section 20 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 27th of April, 1999, in Mullingar.
1. The worker was asked to join the Company by management. It was agreed on commencement that her position would be permanent, with no probationary period.
2. The worker was in charge of all design systems. Prior to moving to Mullingar, she worked from home for 11 weeks. She did not ask for any recompense for expenses, nor was it offered by the Company.
3. There was no proper heating in the office. The worker had to wear a jacket and gloves to keep warm. It was because of this that she innocently mentioned in a second telephone call that the boiler was not working.
4. The worker made a number of telephone calls to family and friends because she was increasingly being isolated by the Company. In her final payslip, she was deducted £300 for telephone calls.
5. The worker was very upset about the way she was dismissed (details supplied to the Court). She had been friends with one of management for a number of years and could not understand why she was treated so badly. She was given no warning prior to her dismissal.
1. The worker was dismissed because of breaches of confidentiality. The issue of confidentiality had been discussed with the worker when the Company was been set up. The first occurred some weeks before the Company had set-up. In a conversation with an employee in the competitor company, the worker gave out confidential information regarding sales orders.
2. In the second instance, the worker told a former employee of the competitor company that the (steam) boiler had blown up. This was a serious breach as it would raise questions about health and safety at the plant. Also, if the steam boiler was not working, no product could pass through the plant. This would be evident to anyone with any knowledge of sock manufacturing.
3. The worker was not badly treated as she claims. She could have been dismissed after the first offence, and she was given a warning. The worker had signed a secrecy agreement when the Company was being set up.
The Court is satisfied that the employer in this case did not follow fair procedures in coming to the decision to terminate the claimant's employment.
The Code of Practice on Disciplinary Procedures made under Section 42 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990 (SI. No. 117 of 1996) places an obligation on employers to have in place disciplinary procedures which conform to the general provisions of the Code, and to follow such procedures in case of discipline. The employer confirmed to the Court that he was familiar with the Code of Practice, but believed that its terms were not applicable in the present case. The Court is unable to accept this submission. This was a case of alleged misconduct, and the provisions of the Code are clearly applicable.
The Court does not accept that the employee willfully or deliberately breached the employer's requirement for confidentiality in a way which could amount to gross misconduct.
Having regard to all of the circumstances in this case, the Court is satisfied that the claimant was unfairly dismissed. The appropriate remedy in this case is compensation. In measuring the amount of compensation to be recommended, the Court has had regard to the following factors:-
1. The claimant was actively recruited by the employer and offered permanent employment, without probationary period.
2. She resigned from a previous employment in which she had five years' service to take up the Company's offer.
3. Her financial loss since the dismissal.
Taking these factors into account, the Court recommends that the claimant be paid compensation in the amount of £6,000.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
17th May, 1999.______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.