ADJUDICATION OFFICER RECOMMENDATION
Adjudication Reference: ADJ-00024530
Corporate Accounts Provider
Darragh Whelan IBEC
Complaint/Dispute Reference No.
Date of Receipt
Complaint seeking adjudication by the Workplace Relations Commission under section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969
Date of Adjudication Hearing: 02/12/2019
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Penelope McGrath
In accordance with Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act of 1969 (as amended by the Workplace Relations Act 2015 so as to include Adjudication Officers) and where a trade dispute (not specifically precluded by Sect. 13) has been identified and has been referred to the Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission who in turn refers such a dispute to an Adjudication Officer, so appointed, for the purpose of having the said dispute heard in similar manner as has been set out in Section 41 of the Workplace Relations Act, 2015 and/or Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act which allows the Adjudication Officer to Investigate a matter raised. The Adjudication Officer will additionally and where appropriate hear all relevant oral evidence of the parties and their witnesses and will take into account any and all documentary or other evidence which may be tendered in the course of the hearing.
Having confirmed that the Complainant herein is a Worker within the meaning of the Acts and Having conducted the Investigation as described in Section 13, I, as the so appointed Adjudication Officer, am bound to make a recommendation which will set forth my opinion on the merits of the within dispute.
Under Section 36(1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1990, any party may object to an investigation by an Adjudication Officer of the dispute raised in the complaint form. The Respondent employer must indicate any such objection in writing within 21 days of the notification of the dispute raised in the workplace relations complaint form. In the event that the Employer does not indicate an unwillingness to have this matter dealt with by way of Adjudicator investigation, the Employer will be regarded as having given consent.
If an objection is not received within the required timeframe and in the required format but at a later date it will not be considered valid for the purpose of this Act, and a hearing in relation to the dispute will be assigned.
The Complainant made an allegation of bullying against her line Manager. The complaint was upheld and the Complainant vindicated. The Complainant is uneasy about how her Employer has dealt with this outcome and in particular is not satisfied that they are ensuring that she is being provided with a safe place to work.
Summary of Complainant’s Case:
The Complainant presented in person and outlined her ongoing Grievances with her Employer
Summary of Respondent’s Case:
The Respondent was represented and I was provided with a comprehensive book of documents.
Findings and Conclusions:
I have carefully considered the issues that have been raised by the Complainant herein. At the outset it is important that I acknowledge that the Complainant has shown considerable strength and courage. There was a time when her position in the Respondent company must have seemed unbearable. I fully accept that the Complainant was the victim of a sustained and nasty campaign of bullying by her line Manager Mr. M and that this has had an impact on every aspect of her daily life. The Complainant was brave enough to make an issue of this matter and whilst the first stage of the disciplinary process was disappointing, the Complainant was fully vindicted in the Appeals process wherein she was found to have been bullied and the perpetrator was accordingly sanctioned.
The process form start to finish took about 6 months, and whilst this seemed overly long to the Complainant I appreciate that that such processes can become elongated. During the process the company sought to separate the parties out and in December of 2018 the Complainant was seconded to an alternative department albeit on the same floor as the department in which she had worked under Mr. M. The optics of moving the victim of bullying cases never sits well as it appears to suggest that the problem is theirs. However, the Employer is obliged to balance the needs of the victim with the right of the alleged bully to be innocent until otherwise proven. As it happens, the Complainant herein thrived in her department and all her Managers want her to stay on. Unfortunately, the Complainant is covering a Maternity leave which is destined to end in January 2020 and the expectation is that the Complainant will return to her original department wherein Mr. M continues to work.
I have been given every assurance that every effort can and will be made to ensure that the Complainant and Mr. M will not have to deal directly with one another. The Complainant has a new and much liked Line Manager Ms. L, who it seems has a working knowledge of the history of the parties.
I fully accept that as the day for returning to this environment approaches, the Complainant is becoming increasingly apprehensive and worried. She perceives her bully as having been allowed to continue uninterrupted and without real sanction or reproof. She says the training he had to undergo after the Appeal (Coaching/training etc.) was token at best. She says the apology she received was not a true and honest one in that it did not acknowledge his own behaviour and started with the well-worn and meaningless phrase “If I caused you hurt etc….”. There was no taking of blame.
I have been told that the Bully is on a final written warning though no evidence to confirm this as provided to me.
I fully accept that eh Complainant feels isolated and alone and without support. It seems to me that nobody in HR has taken ownership of working through on this situation. I do believe if the Complainant felt she had real support she would not have needed to come before me.
The Respondent needs to acknowledge and recognise that the Complainant has exposed a bully in their midst and that it has taken a considerable toll on her to get to this point. Whether or not the Respondent can rehabilitate the bully is a matter for themselves. What the Respondent must not do is fail the victim. At this point in time with four or five weeks before she returns to her old department, I accept the victim is being failed.
The Employer and in particular the HR department has to step up and provide assurances and, indeed, guarantees. The Complainant herein is not a slacker. She works above expectation wherever she is placed. She needs now to feel she is being valued. I accept that the Complainant has to return to the Department from which she was plucked at the time she brought her Grievance. Until such time as other job opportunities arise she must resume her old position. I acknowledge that the Complainant has been provided with a new line Manager and that she should be allowed to reveal to this Manager the true nature and extent of the back-history if she so desires. In any event, the Respondent must ensure that eh new Manager is made a ware of the need to protect the Complainant form having dealings with Mr. M as well as ensuring that the Complainant be re-integrated into her old department as seamlessly as possible.
Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Acts, 1969 requires that I make a recommendation in relation to the dispute.
I recommend that the Complainant’s return to the Business Accounts Management Area in January 2020 (or thereafter) be taken in hand by a single individual in the HR Department who must recognise the Complainant’s status as a person of worth with much to offer and who needs to be protected.
A granular examination of how the Complainants day to day work needs to be conducted (by the individual from HR) in conjunction with the Complainant and her line Manager so that the Complainant knows that she is being protected and looked after. This needs to be done right now and before she returns to her department.
I recommend that every effort is made to ensure that the Complainant is not forced to have dealings with and or have to communicate with the person identified as her Bully Mr. M.
The Complainant and HR must agree how much information must be given to the Complainant’s new line Manager so that that individual (Ms L) will understand the fact that the Complainant’s status is that of a person of value in the workplace in need of some protection against Mr.M.
I recommend that once she has returned to her old department that once a week the Complainant be allowed to talk to the HR in connection with any issues she is having.
I recommend that the Complainant be afforded a number of coaching sessions by an appropriately trained business coach to help her move on from the devastating effects that this period has had on her working and private life. In this regard, it might help if the Complainant be allowed to nominate someone to coach.
The Respondent should back-fill in the Performance Review missed out by Management for the second half of 2018. I have ben told that the Complainant has not lost out financially as a result of this oversight though the Complainant is less sure.
I recommend that the Respondent pay to the Complainant a once off and gratuitous payment of €1,500.00. In making this recommendation, I am mindful of the fact that the Complainant felt forced to retain a Solicitor and issue the workplace relations complaint Form to get any meaningful response form her Employer of nine years.
This money should be paid within six weeks of the issuing of this decision.
Dated: 17th December 2019
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Penelope McGrath