Posted: February 4th, 2019
The Labour Court overturned an unsuccessful claim of wrongful dismissal, taken by a Polish worker against his former place of work employer in 2018.
The worker was accused by his former employer of ‘stealing’ from him by faking a back injury and being absent from work for a prolonged period of time. The WRC decided that the appropriate figure of compensation is €10,000.
The individual told the WRC that that he hurt his back in an incident on 11 September 2016 while he was carrying a box of apples from the top of a pallet during his normal work duties. After the incident he had was absent from work for six weeks on sick leave.
During this absence the company’s health and safety manager reviewed the accident that led to his injury. As part of the accident review the health and safety manager informed the court that she looked at the security camera footage CCTV footage of the incident, contracted a private investigator and spoke to the employee’s managers. However she did not interview the employee.
The employers advised her that, following a recent change in the man’s roster, it had been remarked that it was causing some difficulties in his ability to provide adequate care for his children.
At the first WRC hearing in 2018 it was also claimed that a private detective saw saw the employee lifting his daughter not longer after he claimed to have injured his back. In addition to this the health and safety manager said CCTV footage of the incident suggested that the worker picked up and dropped the box of apples in a ‘staged and orchestrated way’. At the appeal hearing the manager confirmed this once more, and remarked again that she felt the employee’s injury was a fabrication and that he should not have received his salary for the period of time he was absent due to the injury.
The worker was asked to attend a formal review meeting with his shift manager, who had access to CCTV clips of the incident and witness statements, on November 1 , 2016. However, the employee was not given access to the statements or the security camer footage to ready himself for this meeting. After the meeting it was ruled that the employee was ‘dishonest’ in reporting his injury, and recommended that the matter was sent forward for a disciplinary hearing. At the disciplinary hearing the employee was sacked for serious misconduct.
The complainant told the WRC hearing told that he had not been provided with all the relevant evidence to prepare for the formal investigation meeting, was only given a copy of the health and safety manager’s report prior to his sacking. He added that he had not been interviewed as part of the review process. He said he was unhappy with, and did not agree with, the findings of the investigation which claimed that he did not injure his back.
He informed the WRC hearing that he had been to see two different occupational health practitioners and handed in a medical report from his own local doctor GP to his employer in relation to the pain he sustained in his back.
WRC deputy chairperson, Louise O’Donnell said in her ruling that the company’s failure to give the employee with documentation in relation to his dismissal was an issue in relation and did not give the employee an adequate chance to respond defend himself against the charges directed against him.
The WRC found that the employee’s dismissal was not ‘fair’ and directed that the employer pay him €10,000 in unfair dismissal compensation.