ADJUDICATION OFFICER RECOMMENDATION
Adjudication Reference: ADJ-00005587
A Charitable Organisation
Complaint/Dispute Reference No.
Date of Receipt
Complaint seeking adjudication by the Workplace Relations Commission under the Industrial Relations Acts
Date of Adjudication Hearing: 15/05/2017
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Michael McEntee
Location of Hearing: Room G.04 Lansdowne House
In accordance with Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Acts 1969 following the referral of the complaint(s)/dispute(s) to me by the Director General, I inquired into the complaint(s)/dispute(s) and gave the parties an opportunity to be heard by me and to present to me any evidence relevant to the complaint(s)/dispute(s).
1: Summary of Complainant’s Case:
The Complainant maintained that he had been subject to an unfair investigation and had been dismissed for taking an Organisation’s vehicle home. Taking vehicles home was common practice in the Organisation and was only done to expedite work routines the following day. In addition, in this case, he had received an urgent call regarding his father being suddenly hospitalised and the only way he could immediately get to assist his mother and bring her to the hospital was by using the company van he was driving when he received the call.
The Respondent had continuously made difficulties in his participation in the Investigation, Disciplinary and Appeals process. They were in breach of their own procedures and the entire process had been messy and unprofessional.
2: Summary of Respondent’s Case:
A written submission supported by oral evidence was given to the Adjudication Hearing.
The Respondent is a high profile Charity dependent in large measure on public donations. The Company vans carry the Charity’s logo in a prominent display. The proper use of Company Vehicles is the subject of extensive procedures which were fully explained to the Complainant. He had signed for the procedures following a staff meeting in March of 2016.
On the 21st May 2016, a Saturday, the Complainant had taken a Company van home. The Company has a vehicle parking facility in Synge Street CBS School and the vans should have been parked there at the end of the day’s business. The van was recovered the following day from the parking lot of a Public House in Ballyfermot. The Complainant had telephoned colleagues to request then to come and collect the van.
The Respondent, on the opening of business on Monday, immediately made inquiries into the incident. The Complainant was suspended on full pay from the 26th May 2016 and an Investigation process commenced.
A number of meetings with the Complainant took place culminating in a Disciplinary meeting on the 23rd June 2016. The Complaint was dismissed. Throughout this process the Complainant had been unhelpful and indeed aggressive towards some of the Mangers involved. He had threatened to call to some of the female Mangers home addresses.
An Appeal Hearing was held on the 16th August with the Chief Executive and the Company Secretary. The dismissal decision was upheld.
In oral evidence the Respondent outlined the importance of the Company vehicle policy and the need to have a proper public image and policies in an era where voluntary contributions to Charities are increasing under scrutiny. The effective absence of a Company Vehicle for over 24 hours was completely unacceptable. The Respondent had no idea of what use the vehicle may have been put to during this period. The apparent parking of the vehicle for an extended period in the parking lot of a Public House was equally unacceptable.
In addition the behaviours of the Complainant towards Mangers during the internal hearing processes were completely unacceptable.
All fair procedures had been followed. Proper correspondence had issued and representation rights had been offered. Witnesses had been interviewed and every opportunity was afforded to the Complainant to give his side of the case.
Taking all the matters into account the Dismissal was fair and proportionate
3: Findings and Conclusions:
3:1 The Legal Position. This case is being brought under the Industrial Relations Acts as the Complainant does not have the required 12 months service for the Unfair Dismissals Act.1977. Nonetheless the requirements of Natural Justice apply and S.I. 146 of 2000 Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Issues can be referenced.
3:2 It is also well accepted law that the role of the Adjudication Officer is not to reinvestigate a Dismissal or Appeal but to ensure that proper procedures were followed and that natural Justice was paramount throughout. A Dismissal decision has to be seen to be within the range of reasonable decisions that an employer in a similar sector might take.
3:3 The evidence was that there was no doubt but that the company Vehicle was not parked up in the Company parking facility as required on the night of the 21st May 2016. This was openly admitted by the Complainant.
3:4 The Respondent followed proper procedures and correct correspondence was issued. The issue of representation became somewhat unclear but adequate facilities were offered. It was clear from the oral evidence from both parties that the meetings had become fraught on occasions. A female Manager had become frightened by suggestions that the Complainant would call to her home address. At the Adjudication Hearing the general demeanour and behaviour of the Complainant did nothing to convince me that this allegation was untrue.
3:5 It was unclear as to why the Complaint was unaccompanied at the Appeal hearing, He had assured the Respondent earlier that a fellow staff member who had attended the preliminary investigation meeting would attend. The Chairman of the Appeal Hearing was clearly uninvolved in previous proceedings and the Chief Executive had also not been directly involved. The minutes of the Appeal meeting, presented in evidence, indicate that a full consideration of all the relevant facts and mitigating arguments had been presented. The Decision was issued on the 26th August some 10 days later.
3:6 Taking in mind the open admission of the Complaint that he had taken the van home and the extensive nature of the Investigation and proper Appeal procedures I came to the view that he dismissal decision was in the band of reasonableness for an Employer in the charity/voluntary sector concerned. The consideration of Reasonableness in the case The Governor and Company of the Bank of Ireland v Reilly  IEHC 228 is a useful Authority here.
In addition the obvious difficulties during the process between the Complaint and individual Mangers were apparent during the Adjudication Hearing.
3:7 Accordingly having considered all the evidence, both oral and written, I came to the conclusion that the claim for Unfair Dismissal was not well founded and is dismissed.
Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Acts, 1969 requires that I make a recommendation in relation to the dispute.
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Michael McEntee