INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
ATHLONE INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
- AND -
Chairman: Mr McGee
Employer Member: Mr Doherty
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Appeal of Rights Commissioner's Recommendation.
2. The Appellant is an Assistant Lecturer in Applied Social Studies in the Department of Humanities at the Athlone Institute of Technology. She commenced employment in September 1999.
In February 2002 the Appellant submitted a Strand 1 research proposal. Strand 1 is a research grant administered by the Department of Education and Science. In September 2002 the Appellant made a complaint that the Head of Department had made deliberate attempts to sabotage the application and the research project. The complaint was dealt with under the Anti-Harrassment policy of the Institute.
The investigating committee issued its report in November 2002 and found that there was no case of harassment/bullying. The factual issues, which were the subject of the Appellant’s complaint, were not investigated and she was informed that she could appeal to a Rights Commissioner.
The issue was referred to a Rights Commissioner for investigation and recommendation. The Rights Commissioner issued an interim recommendation on 28th January 2004 which provided for the investigation , by an outside independent expert, of the Appellant’s grievances of an academic nature as disclosed in her complaint of the 12th September 2002. Terms of reference were agreed between the parties.
The Appellant was dissatisfied with the outcome of that report and again referred the matter to the Rights Commissioner for investigation and recommendation. The Rights Commissioner’s recommendation issued on the 28th September, 2005, as follows:-
“Based on the submissions made and for the reasons set out in the foregoing I consider that the report of the external investigator was both comprehensive and reasoned and I do not recommend that any further action be taken in the matter. Taking into account the conclusions set out above I recommend that the Appellant regard the matter as closed.”
(The Appellant was named in the Rights Commissioner’s Recommendation.)
The Appellant contends that the investigation was not a full investigation of her complaint and that she was disadvantaged in the previous appeal by not having records/ notes submitted to the independent investigator.
Management contend that the Rights Commissioner’s recommendations were reasonable and appropriate, that the Appellant’s complaint was fully investigated twice and that she was in all respects treated reasonably and fairly.
The Appellant appealed the recommendation to the Labour Court on the 7th November 2005, in accordance with Section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 7th July, 2006.
3. 1.The Appellant contends that her complaint has not been taken seriously and that the investigation undertaken was not thorough.
2. The Appellant also contends that Management failed to take disciplinary action against the other party involved in her original complaint.
4. 1. Management contend that the investigating team appointed by them dealt with the Appellant's complaint in an appropriate manner, in accordance with the Anti-Harrassment Policy and with best practice.
2. Following the initial Rights Commissioner hearing both parties agreed to an independent academic enquiry which took place with the cooperation of both parties.
3. The other party to the Appellant's complaint has stepped down from the managerial position he held at the time of the complaint.
In considering this case the Court examined in detail all the documents presented to it. The chronology of events is as follows:-
1. On the 12th September 2002, the Appellant, an Assistant Lecturer at the Institute, made a written complaint about her Head of Department's behaviour in relation to a successful application by her for funding for a research project. At the date of the complaint the funding had been received and the project was underway. The basis of the complaint was twofold:-
a) That the Head of Department tried to sabotage the project and told lies in his efforts to do so and
b) That he unjustly maligned the Appellant to other professionals and academics both within and outside the Institute
c) That (a) and (b) above are evidence of his bullying and harassment of the Appellant.
2. This complaint was copied to the Head of Department and responded to by him on the same date.
3. It is clear that there are two facets to the complaint and the response - a) the research project itself and b) the manner in which the Head of Department managed it.
4. AIT set up an internal investigation of the complaint under the Anti-Harrassment policy.
5. That report was appealed to a Rights Commissioner who made an interim recommendation that a new investigation be carried out by an external person.
6. Such an external investigation was carried out under agreed terms of reference. The external investigator reported on 9th June, 2004. It is in accordance with number 11 of these terms of reference that this case is before the Court
"each of (the Appellant) and (the Head of Department) will be entitled to appeal the outcome to the Rights Commissioner and, subject thereto and to the further right of appeal to the Labour Court, the outcome will be final and binding on the parties."
This is a dispute between an Assistant Lecturer and a former Head of Department. More importantly and it is only in that context, that the Court can deal with it, it is a dispute between a Worker and her Employer.
The focus of the Appellant's case now appears to be her dissatisfaction with her Employer's lack of disciplinary action against her Head of Department.
The Head of Department was not a party to this investigation and, the Court was informed, is currently processing grievances on his own behalf against the Appellant.
In relation to the Appellant's case it is the Court's view that the external investigator's report found in her favour in relation to her behaviour regarding the research project management, effectively upholding her complaint regarding her credibility. Both the internal investigation and the external investigation referred to the lack of clarity about the respective roles of Head of the School and Head of the Department and the need for management training in conflict resolution.
The Court recommends that the Employer implement these findings and that the Appellant accept that her complaint has been fully investigated.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
26th July, 2006______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Madelon Geoghegan, Court Secretary.