Flawed disciplinary investigation leads to €30,000 payment

This case emphasises the need for all employers to be very thorough and careful when undertaking disciplinary investigations. Carefully following your disciplinary procedure, ensuring that the issue is fully investigated, and that all relevant employees are interviewed as part of the investigation, is essential to show that the employer has been fair and reasonable in their final decision.

In this case, a former employee of a national car test contractor took an unfair dismissal case after being dismissed. The employee was employed as a vehicle coordinater/administrator. In July 2012, he emailed the HR Manager describing some of the problems he was having in the workplace. One of the issues was that his manager was not very interactive and delegated all the work to the employee’s colleague, and the employee alleged that the vehicle inspectors had asked administration staff to reassign the vehicles of acquaintances to them. The HR Manager came back and sought evidence on this as it would be seen as a very serious matter.

In September 2012, the Regional Manager wrote to the employee informing him that a whistleblower had written in to state that he had seen the claimant driving vehicles that were not his own which were due tests. An investigation meeting was held, and the employee was represented by his solicitor. He admitted driving cars to the centre which were not his own – he said that the emanger had encouraged him to bring the cars in for testing and that he had not recieved any payments or benefits for doing this, he mentioned another 4 employees who were also doing this.

The solicitor asked for copies of the minutes of this meeting which were not furnished – the employee felt that the company had already made a decision to dismiss. The Company then took the decision to dismiss – the EAT stated that the Company’s procedures were seriously flawed. The Company had failed to interview the manager who supposedly had told employees they could bring in cars for testing to fill empty slots, this manager was also one of the 4 employees named as engaging in this practice. The EAT noted that the employee’s solicitor had twice unsuccessfully tried to give the names of the employees involved in the practice to the regional manager, and the EAT also questioned why the appeal investigation was conducted over the phone rather than face to face. (UD519/2013)