Employee sacked after PI photographed him working on farm while sick, wins case

A farmer whose employer despatched a non-public detective to his farm to take photos of him working after he was injured on the job has been awarded €12,000.

The Workplace Relations Commission has been advised Dawn Meats employed an investigator who spent three days finishing up “covert surveillance” of the person at his residence whereas he was on sick go away in 2020.

A criticism by Aeron James underneath the Unfair Dismissals Act in opposition to Dawn Meats Ireland Unlimited, buying and selling as Dawn Meats, has been upheld by the Workplace Relations Commission in a choice made public on Tuesday.

Mr James had claimed the interior disciplinary course of which discovered he had been working whereas on licensed sick go away was “lacking in procedural fairness and natural justice”.

Dawn Meats stated Mr James was pretty dismissed on grounds of gross misconduct after a “thorough and fair” disciplinary course of.

Mr James advised an adjudication listening to late final yr that he was “slammed” by a gate whereas herding cattle right into a pen on St Patrick’s Day 2020.

He suffered “severe bruising” to his again and leg from the impression and was licensed unfit to work two days later by the corporate physician, he stated, who advised the agency to inform him to return again on April twentieth.

Siptu organiser Rachel Hartery, who represented Mr James, stated her consumer was summoned by letter to an investigation assembly into “allegations of breach of trust and dishonesty” on April twenty first.

The firm indicated “its suspicions had been aroused” when Mr James had agreed to promote hay from his farm to the corporate whereas he was out sick.

Mr James advised the listening to that Dawn Meats’ procurement supervisor contacted him in search of a consignment of hay as animal bedding, which he had supplied earlier than.

He stated his spouse and kids loaded his trailer and he drove it to the positioning the place it was unloaded by an worker of the meat firm.

Then Mr James stated he was introduced with 60 pictures “taken covertly by a private investigator” of him at his farm.

He stated these confirmed him finishing up “chores” on his farmland from the seventh to ninth April 2020, some 20 days after his accident at work.

The HR officer gave proof that the personal eye was employed after Mr James delivered the load of hay whereas out sick.

She stated they confirmed him carrying buckets and luggage of meal and loading a trailer on the farm.

Mr James stated these have been solely “menial” duties and disputed Dawn Meats’ competition that they have been “more labour-intensive than the duties associated with his job”.

He stated he had “no option but to carry out these tasks and tend to his animals regardless of the fact that he was certified unfit to work”.

Disciplinary course of

His union consultant, Ms Hartery, wrote to the corporate two days after the disciplinary listening to to object to what Mr James thought-about the “procedurally-flawed manner” by which the disciplinary course of was being carried out and to object to the usage of covert surveillance at his property, he stated, however they acquired no response.

Ms Hartery argued it was of word that the investigation report was “retrospectively compiled” and had the identical date as an invite on April twenty seventh 2020 to a disciplinary investigation assembly issued by a extra senior HR officer within the agency.

She argued it was “bizarre” that this HR officer carried out an additional investigation when the report was issued, including that Dawn Meats had “failed to separate the investigation from the disciplinary process”.

Ms Hartery added he ought to have been allowed to be represented by his commerce union on the preliminary listening to.

He stated he was dismissed at a gathering on May seventh 2020 on grounds confirmed in writing as a “fundamental breach of trust and honesty”.

It was Mr James’s place that the positioning supervisor who rejected his enchantment was “not the appropriate person to hear it as the manager had “instigated the initial investigation”.

Ms Hartery stated the investigation was procedurally flawed as a result of it was carried out with out her consumer’s information utilizing covert surveillance – with issues deliberated on and determined earlier than he was knowledgeable.

She referred to as it a “box-ticking exercise to create the illusion of a fair process”.

‘Natural justice’

Ibec employer relations govt Robin McKenna, who appeared for Dawn Meats argued the agency “adhered to the principles of natural justice and fair procedures at all times”.

It was the regional HR supervisor’s proof that he believed the work Mr James was photographed doing on his personal farm have been “more strenuous and labour intensive” than his function with Dawn Meats.

The witness stated he didn’t receive a medical evaluation of Mr James earlier than dismissing him, however fashioned the view that he “shouldn’t have been able to carry out the work he was depicted doing”.

The firm’s operations supervisor stated he took the choice to rent the personal eye after Mr James introduced hay to the corporate’s website, however denied having seen the pictures or a draft of the HR officer’s investigation report.

He disputed the complainant’s argument that he was not neutral or unbiased in listening to the enchantment of the disciplinary course of.

In his resolution, adjudicating officer Enda Murphy discovered Mr James had not been correctly knowledgeable of the character of the allegations of gross misconduct in opposition to him when he was suspended prematurely of the primary disciplinary assembly.

He wrote that Mr James was “confronted” on the assembly with allegations a few “pattern of absenteeism” and that he had been engaged on his personal farm whereas out sick.

The failure to offer advance particulars was in breach of Dawn Meats’ disciplinary coverage, he wrote, including that Mr James was “totally unaware of the precise nature of the allegations”.

“I also have grave concerns in relation to the manner in which the allegations of gross misconduct were presented to the complainant at the investigation and disciplinary hearings,” he wrote.

“It is clear that there was a lack of clarity throughout this process in relation to the precise nature and extent of the charges that were being pursued against him,” Mr Murphy added.

He additionally discovered there have been “procedural shortcomings and irregularities” within the investigation and disciplinary course of, with the regional HR supervisor and the operations supervisor having “a multiplicity of roles”.

This raised doubts about their impartiality and independence of the method – and consequently the equity of the method, he wrote.

Mr Murphy added that Dawn Meats “did not consider or make allowances for any mitigating factors put forward by the complainant or alternatives to dismissal”.

There was no dispute that Mr James had carried out duties on his farm, Mr Murphy wrote, however Dawn Meats had “scant regard” for his or her former worker’s explanations.

He discovered dismissing Mr James was “disproportionate” and “did not fall within the range of reasonable responses” open to the corporate and due to this fact each substantively and procedurally unfair.

Mr Murphy awarded €10,000 to the complainant for unfair dismissal and an additional €2,556,62, six weeks’ pay, for failing to offer statutory discover entitlements underneath the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act.

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