News from the Courts – Dismissal of Employee Deemed Unfair

Dismissal of employee who over-dosed on prescription drugs deemed unfair

A recent case, reported in IRN, where a general operative was sent home from work and subsequently dismissed, has been ruled by the Adjudication Officer (AO) of the Workplace Relations Commission to be unfair – due to lack of transparency and failure to follow a fair investigation and a lack of procedure before dismissal.

This employee arrived at work in an unsafe condition, and he didn’t tell his manager that he had taken his drugs over shorter periods than prescribed. Because of this, he was unfit for work. The employee had an injury and was taking prescribed medication for this injury. A decision to send the employee home was only taken after 2 hours in work, after returning from 18 weeks of sick leave.

The General Manager instigated a disciplinary investigation; however, no notes were provided to the employee and his union representative for the meetings held with witnesses, and some of the employee’s evidence was disregarded. Also, other incidents were included in the General Manager’s statement. The union representative was ‘in effect’ disregarded in the process, and the AO stated that the employee is entitled to a reasonable level of representation (citing the Lyons v Longford Westmeath ETB ruling).

The AO ruled that it was not good enough to just hold a disciplinary hearing and a subsequent appeal – and the employee was awarded half of his actual losses of €28,675.

This case again re-emphasises the necessity to follow best practice when undertaking a disciplinary investigation and to ensure transparency and fairness at all times, with the view that the employee is innocent until proven guilty.