SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
OFFICE OF PUBLIC WORKS
(REPRESENTED BY MR GLEN GIBBONS B.L. INSTRUCTED BY MR TONY JOYCE, C.S.S.O)
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY RICHARD GROGAN & ASSOCIATES)
Chairman: Mr Haugh
Employer Member: Ms Doyle
Worker Member: Ms O'Donnell
1. Appeal of Adjudication Officer's Recommendation No:- r-155604-ir-15/EH.
2. This case concerns a complaint of bullying and harassment.
The matter was referred to an Adjudication Officer for investigation and recommendation. On 21 June 2016 the Adjudication Officer issued the following recommendation:-
- I recommend that the Complainant accepts that the Respondent has taken appropriate actions and measures to protect her.
- I recommend that an apology is not warranted in this case.
- I recommend that the Respondent pays compensation of €650 (six hundred and fifty) for the delay in having the process concluded in a timely manner. This is to be paid within six weeks of the date below.
The Complainant appealed the Adjudication Officer's recommendation to the Labour Court on 26 July 2016 in accordance with Section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969.
A Labour Court hearing took place on 6 December 2016.
3. 1. There was an unfair and totally unacceptable delay between putting in a complaint and matters being dealt with.
2. The employee wanted a situation where the investigation was concluded and acted upon within a reasonable period of time. The employee did not have matters dealt with in any fashion that could be termed fair and reasonable.
3. There is no reasonable excuse put forward by the employer to explain the unreasonable delays in processing matters in a fair and efficient manner.
4. 1. The Respondent submitted that the timescale involved in the process was not inordinate.
2. If considered inordinate, this was excusable by virtue of the chronology of the processing of the complaints of bullying, including the investigation and review, the depth of the investigation and independent review, the serious nature of the allegations and the fact that the accused employee was entitled to theirRe Haugheyrights of fair procedure.
3. The Respondent was placed in a delicate position throughout the entirety of the process in respecting the rights of all parties concerned. Taking time to ensure fair procedural rights to all parties concerned is a better course of action than expedition at all costs.
Background to the Dispute
The Worker is one of a total of 4 employed by the Respondent who initiated formal bullying complaints against a named colleague in January 2013. The complaints (48 in total) were investigated by an external investigator whose report issued in November 2014. The complainants and the subject of the complaint were then afforded an opportunity to make observations on the investigator’s report before the Respondent’s Equality Officer made a final determination in relation to the complaints in July 2015. This was followed by a further review – initiated by the subject of the complaints – and which concluded in late February 2016.
Mr Grogan, Solicitor for the Worker, submits that this process was inordinately protracted. He is seeking compensation of up to €2,000.00 for the Worker and the prejudice caused to her resulting from the delay in bringing the investigation of her complaints to a conclusion in a timely manner.
Mr Gibbons BL for the Respondent submits that the timescale taken to complete the investigation and review was not inordinate having regard to the serious nature of the allegations levelled against the subject of the complaints, the need to ensure that he was afforded hisRe Haugheyrights, and the depth of the investigation and independent review undertaken. The Court was informed that a comprehensive tendering process had to be completed before an independent investigator could be appointed in the first instance. He further submits that the complaints were thoroughly, conscientiously and objectively investigated at all stages having due regard to the rights of everybody concerned and in accordance with the Respondent’s very detailed anti-harassment and bullying policy – ‘A Positive Working Environment – An Anti-Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Bullying Policy for State Industrial Employees’.
Discussion and Decision
The Court has noted the complexity of the investigation that was undertaken and the high volume of complaints that fell to be considered by the investigator. Nevertheless, the process took over 3 years from initiation to conclusion. The Court is of the view that this is not best practice and undoubtedly placed unnecessary strains on everybody concerned. Accordingly, the Court recommends payment of €750.00 in compensation to the Worker having regard to the length of time the Respondent took to bring matters to finality.
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
18 January 2017______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Michael Neville, Court Secretary.