Unfair Dismissals Act 1977
A Workplace Relations Commission (“WRC”) Adjudicator has rejected an allegation of gross misconduct against a former [i]Abbott employee (“the Complainant”) and instead awarded compensation of €35,000 for a breach of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977.
The Complainant was employed as a general operative and was initially suspended over using an incorrect cleaning solution in April 2020. The Respondent operated a number of procedures which all operatives had to adhere to in the course of their employment. One of those procedures provided detailed instructions to operatives for the preparation of inventory fixtures. Step 2.4 of the procedure required operatives to apply a cleaning agent to an item to be used later in the process. The procedure stipulated that the cleaning agent used must have an alcohol concentration of 100%. The procedure required that the operative verify their material by label on their return from break.
On 1 April 2020, the Complainant was engaged in this task. The Respondent submitted that the Complainant on this date failed to comply with the correct procedure and this resulted in the incorrect cleaning agent being used. The Respondent claimed that the Complainant failed to engage with a member of the quality team or his supervisor in respect of corrective action.
As a result of a number of investigations, the Respondent took the view that the incident compromised health and safety at the Respondent’s plant, and ultimately the Complainant was dismissed for gross misconduct in July 2020.
The Complainant claimed that his dismissal was unfair and lodged a claim with the [ii]Workplace Relations Commission under Section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977.
At the WRC, the Complainant declared that his dismissal was unfair, inappropriate and that the disciplinary procedure adopted by the Respondent was flawed.
The Respondent maintained that their dismissal of the Complainant on the grounds of gross misconduct was valid and proportionate and claimed that the Complainant had failed to follow direct instructions from the quality technician to isolate the affected items.
During cross-examination, the Respondent’s disciplinary officer conceded that the termination letter sent to the Complainant contained an error to the effect that the Complainant had previously received a final written warning. The Adjudication Officer noted this as being “demonstrably untrue”, and noted that the Complainant had over 14 years’ experience and had completed various other production processes without any issue being raised.
The Complainant informed the WRC that he had failed to progress in interviews with other local manufacturing firms when he informed them of the reason for his dismissal from his previous employment, before eventually sourcing a job and working for less pay.
The Adjudicator found that in this instance, the conduct of the Complainant did not warrant gross misconduct. The Adjudicator awarded the Complainant €35,000 in compensation.
This case serves as yet another warning to employers to adhere to the principles of fairness and proportionality in any disciplinary action against employees. It also shows the importance of maintaining an accurate employee file as only valid prior sanctions can be taken into account by an employer in deciding on any further disciplinary action
Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this article, it has been provided for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.
This article contains general information based on Irish law and does not constitute legal advice nor is it intended to provide a comprehensive or detailed statement of the law.
Amorys Solicitors is a boutique commercial and private client law firm in Sandyford, Dublin 18, Ireland.
For further information and advice in relation to “Unfair Dismissals Act 1997”, please contact Mike Collum, Solicitor, Amorys Solicitors firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone 01 213 5940 or your usual contact at Amorys on our email address at email@example.com.