Bullied employee who was penalised awarded €16,000

A cleaning operative, who complained that he was bullied by his supervisor and then penalised for those complaints by being transferred to lower-paid employment, has been awarded €16,000 by the Workplace Relations Commission.

The operative said he experienced difficulties with his immediate supervisor, contending he was bullied for over a year. He worked for his employer, a facilities management company, in a shopping centre.

He raised the issue with the shopping centre’s management, wondering if there was a difficulty with his work. The matter was referred to the facilities company area manager and after he met her, there was an improvement for a short period, though he was admonished for not raising the matter directly with his employer. The improvement was short-lived.

The area manager then suggested the operative be moved to a different area. He was reluctant to move, as it would mean a reduction in pay and hours. After a couple of periods of sick leave, the operative invoked the company’s formal grievance procedure. An investigation was undertaken and concluded the operative’s complaints were largely unfounded. Eventually he was offered a place at a pharma plant serviced by the facilities company. He continues to work there.

Delivering her determination, the adjudication officer (AO) noted that the operative had literacy problems and that employers are obliged to communicate information on health and safety in a form and manner likely to be understood (SHWW Act 2005, section 9).

The AO’s remarks that the employer was unaware of the literacy problem, which the operative had not brought to its attention and which had not been assessed during recruitment, places an extra challenge on an employer.

She found the early management handling of the complaint of bullying to be unusual and did not follow the company’s policy by allocating a contact person or offering mediation. It was not accompanied by a procedural fairness and a correct application of company procedures.

She was satisfied that but for the “continuum of complaints” by the operative, he would not have been treated as he was and that the complaint of penalisation was well-founded. She ordered the employer to pay the operative €16,000 compensation.

However, she concluded it was “testament” to the employer that the operative returned to work for the company and that the employment relationship remained intact. (A Cleaning Operative v A Facilities Company: ADJ-00021272, April 2020)

Source: Health and Safety Review