Dismissed bullied employee penalised: awarded €20,000

An employee who was dismissed the day after she complained that she was being bullied has been awarded €20,000 compensation by a Workplace Relations Commission adjudication officer (AO).

The AO heard that the employee (the complainant) was employed as an accounts manager, commencing employment on March 15th 2017. The complainant said her contract of employment included a 90-day probation period and a provision that during the probationary period, either party could terminate the contract on giving one week’s written notice. The employer could extend the probationary period by notice in writing, but it could not exceed six months.

The complainant said that at the end of the 90 days she did not receive written notice of the extension of the period. She said that three weeks after the end of the period, she was called to a probation review meeting. She said there was no notification that she could lose her job.

At the meeting, she said the MD said he intended to extend her probation period. She challenged this under the terms of her contract. The MD replied that three months’ probation was too short. At this meeting she told the AO they would meet in two weeks to formalise his expectations.

She claimed that after raising her complaint about the validity of extending the probation period, she was bullied. She gave, as examples of bullying, the cutting short of a presentation by her to senior executives and the non-recognition of her work on the rollout of the company’s ethics programme.

On the 19th September she was invited to a meeting on the 20th and was advised that she could bring “an internal work colleague” as a representative.

The complainant told the AO that she had discussed her problems with the MD with HR. She said that on September 19th she saw no end to what she saw as the ongoing bullying behaviour by the MD and she lodged a complaint of bullying.

She claimed that at the meeting on the 20th she was ambushed and dismissed, not because of her work performance as the company claimed, but because she complained she was bullied. She claimed that the company failed to investigate her complaint and that she was penalised, contrary to section 27 of the SHWW Act 2005, by being dismissed.

AO’S CONCLUSIONS 

The AO found, on the balance of probabilities, that the sudden dismissal of the complainant arose from her complaint of penalisation. The AO found that the complainant formalised her complaint under the SHWW Act 2005 when she realised that making the complaint was likely to lead to serious disciplinary sanction.

The AO concluded that the fact that the meeting of September 20th “so suddenly turned disciplinary” was penalisation for raising a formal bullying complaint. He awarded the complainant €20,000 under the SHWW Act 2005. He also awarded her €10,000 under the terms of the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act 1973. (WRC Adjudication Reference ADJ-00013705, October 2018)

Source: Health and Safety Review