The complainant had been employed by the respondent company as a Warehouse Manager for just over 18 years when he was dismissed on allegations of gross misconduct.
On October 30th the complainant received a call from his wife, who was trapped in her home with 8-10 supposedly armed men outside. Given the circumstances, the complainant decided to drive to his home ten minutes away. He encountered two employees on work break and requested they accompany him, in addition to two other employees who volunteered to come of their own accord.
Upon arrival, the complainant saw that the Gardaí had taken control of the situation. The employees spent no more than five minutes at the complainant’s home before returning to work. The complainant emailed the Operations Manager to inform him that he had been off-site for some 20 minutes, but did not mention the four other employees.
The complainant was requested to attend a meeting with both the Operations Manager and the Manager on the 7th of November. He was subsequently informed of his suspension on account of gross misconduct. By letter of November 9th the complainant was invited to an investigatory meeting concerning what were classified as his ‘offences’. The complainant attended a disciplinary hearing on the 24th of November and was informed of his dismissal the next day by letter.
It was submitted that there had been breaches of fair procedure, specifically in regard to the pre-ordained nature of the investigation. The Operations Manager was both the accuser and the investigator, and had accused him of gross misconduct prior to the investigatory process.
It was noted that the complainant was in violation of standard health and safety procedures, and had endangered four other employees by entering them in a hostile situation. It was also noted that the complainant had not requested leave or secured a substitute Supervisor to replace him in his absence.
However the complainant’s rash behaviour was considered justifiable given the exceptional circumstances of the situation, and the sanction of dismissal considered wholly inappropriate. The respondent was ordered to pay compensation of €20,000 to the complainant within 42 days of the decision.