EMPLOYMENT APPEALS TRIBUNAL
Connaught Electronics Limited T/A Valeo Vision Systems
UNFAIR DISMISSALS ACTS 1977 TO 2007
I certify that the Tribunal
(Division of Tribunal)
Chairman: Ms C. Egan B.L.
Members: Mr. W. O'Carroll
Ms H. Henry
heard this claim at Galway on 21 January 2016, 19 April 2016 and 20 April 2016
Claimant: Mr. Alan Ledwith B.L. instructed by Ms Elaine Silke, Crean O'Cleirigh & O'Dwyer, Solicitors, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo
Respondent: Mr. Ronnie Lawless, IBEC, Ross House, Victoria Place, Galway
The respondent company manufactures cameras and electronic control units for the automotive industry. Customers of the company include prestigious car manufacturers. The company employs twelve hundred employees.
EM the processing engineering manager at the time of the claimant’s dismissal gave evidence. EM is currently industrial director of the respondent company. The claimant worked in the role of project manager with responsibility for managing a cross functional team including research and development, process engineer, purchasing and logistics. The claimant had responsibility for two multimillion euro projects. If the projects were not delivered on time there were penalty implications for the respondent, including daily fines for any delay on the production line. Control documents were in place to ensure deadlines were met. Good communication skills and project managing skills were required for the role. Identifying problems through good engineering practices and build reviews were required to meet demands. The claimant was failing to keep PSA build documents up to date and struggling to manage the overall responsibilities of the job. The claimant was not meeting the team involved in the project, not reviewing progress and failing to assign responsibilities to an engineer. There were multiple incidents where the claimant did not perform. EM stated that the claimant depended too much on verbal communications rather than documenting the process, making it impossible to monitor progress. Consequently, the claimant was rated B minus at his review meeting. As a result, a performance improvement plan (PIP) was put in place for the claimant in October 2013. EM wished to help and support the claimant through the PIP process but he stated that the claimant “spent all his energies debating micro details rather than focusing on improvement”. Review meetings were held on the 1 November, 29 November, 19 December 2013 and the 3 February 2014. In addition, between the formal review meetings, weekly meetings were held with the claimant. Issues identified included the claimant’s failure to recognise problems at an early stage and use his initiative to drive a solution to the problem. At the third review meeting EM found that the claimant was still failing to demonstrate any improvements. At the fourth review meeting there was a reoccurring theme with the claimant not taking initiative and failing to get to “the bottom of problems”. Problem solving tools designed to help manage projects which were available to the claimant were not accessed by him.
A PIP outcome meeting was held with the claimant on the 7 February 2014. The claimant had sought additional assistance in order to complete a project. However, he failed to provide EM with a list or breakdown to justify additional resources.
EM stated that the company expected employees to put in the hours and the expectation was 8.30am to 6pm or later. The claimant worked from 8.30am to 5pm and according to EM he refused to work after 5pm. The claimant’s contract of employment indicates that he held a salaried position.
A disciplinary meeting was held on the 14 February 2014, and the claimant was given his first written warning. A redefined PIP process was agreed. The second PIP process was reviewed at a meeting on the 9 April 2014 where the underlying trend was that the claimant was not following the process. A further disciplinary meeting was held on the 17 April 2014, and the claimant was issued with a final written warning. The claimant was offered an appeal of the final written warning, but did not appeal. A third PIP process was agreed on the 23 April 2014 and reviewed on the 28 May 2014. The review notes were opened in full to the Tribunal. A disciplinary meeting was held with the claimant on the 9 June 2014. The claimant’s employment was terminated in a letter dated the 10 June 2014.
EM did not believe there was any alternative to dismissal as the claimant had not engaged enough in the PIP process and had failed to move forward after three PIP processes. EM confirmed that the claimant had complained to HR in 2010 that he was required to report to three managers. EM explained that in a matrix organisation such as this, it was not unusual to have to report to multiple managers. EM denied that the claimant was benchmarked on the performance of other project managers. At no time during the appraisal did the claimant indicate that unrealistic targets were being set for him.
The Tribunal heard evidence from PD the project manager for the Respondent. His work entailed implementing new projects and developing products. The claimant was one of four people who reported to him. The witness explained that he did not agree that it was unfair for the claimant to report to two managers, and by way of illustration he stated that a logistics person reported to four or five managers.
The witness described the PIP in the company. He also described the performance decision grid and that the claimant scored a B minus on the grid. The witness was responsible for putting the PIP in place for the claimant and in supporting the claimant. The purpose of the PIP is to bring an employee up to the required standard. He stated that the improvement did not happen in the claimant’s case. He found no engagement on the part of the claimant and a disregard for basic processes and procedures and was disturbed by the quality of documentation that he had requested. He saw a gap in the minimal acceptable standard. The witness stated that he had frequent meetings with the claimant but that the claimant would not, or did not, do the “few extra things” that he could have done.
The Tribunal heard evidence from AM the site general manager. The witness explained that he was the appeal officer and he heard the claimant’s appeal. The decision to dismiss was upheld.
The Tribunal heard evidence from FB the HR manager, who reiterated that the purpose of the PIP was to help people reach an acceptable standard of performance and to ensure that procedures were being followed. It was noted that the claimant did not appeal the final warning.
The Tribunal heard evidence from the claimant. He described his engineering qualifications and experience to the Tribunal. He stated that he started in employment with the respondent in 2006. He had no performance issues. He agreed that he was an operator at a senior level. He had no difficulties previously and had a good relationship with his peers. Up until 2010 he had received satisfactory appraisals.
Then at some point in time the business needs changed. The company changed from being an Irish owned company to a French owned company. Things changed and he found himself reporting to PSA manager and not to PD whom he used to report to. He was also asked to report to EM the sales manager. He had to report to five managers and this happened over a period of five months. He had reported to just one manager when he commenced with the employer.
The claimant further explained the reporting structure and a project team member (PTM) reporting structure. He also explained that in or around the summer of 2012 he was assigned extra tasks in addition to his own. When he was asked if he was able to do both of the roles he replied “I did my best” and explained that “the key point is that the two project managers had diverse goals and objectives”. He also explained that he was the only person of his status reporting to two project managers; others had two projects but he was the only one reporting to two project managers and that this was “unique”.
In the summer of 2013 he was placed on a PIP. The claimant maintained that he was flexible with his dealings with the respondent, but stated that he was the only one reporting to two managers, and felt that he was being “singled out” and was “very very unfairly treated”. He stated that he was going home after work in a very stressed state and was suffering headaches because of “too many diverse activities to attend to”. He felt that other employees were not subject to the PIP process. He stated that he was not offered any other role, or demotion, and resented having to conform to the PIP process.
It was put to the claimant that it was said that he did not engage with the process. The claimant maintained that he did everything that he was asked to do. He did accept that if for instance he did not update records it was because he had too many projects at hand. He stated he was not given enough time to complete certain tasks.
The Tribunal considered all the evidence and submissions in this case. The respondent behaved reasonably at all times and did its utmost to support the claimant, exhibiting fairness to the claimant in affording him every opportunity to adapt to the particular requirements of the respondent’s business. However, the claimant failed to engage with the respondent in any meaningful way, or at all. The Tribunal unanimously determines that the claimant was not unfairly dismissed, the claimant having contributed wholly to his own dismissal. Therefore, the claim under the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 to 2007, fails.
Sealed with the Seal of the
Employment Appeals Tribunal