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Sale executive awarded record €329k for unfair dismissal after bullying claims

The award is understood to be the largest ever made by the Workplace Relations Commission

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Stephen Bourke

A sales executive has been awarded more than €329,000 for unfair dismissal after being sacked without a formal warning over bullying allegations.

The award, which was revealed in a judgment published yesterday, is understood to be the largest ever made by the Workplace Relations Commission and more than double the previous record award.

The former sales executive filed complaints under the Unfair Dismissals Act and the Payment of Wages Act.

He had worked for the firm since 2016 and was promoted in 2019, but was later dismissed on the grounds of serious misconduct after he was accused of bullying. Neither the complainant nor the firm were named by the adjudicating officer in the case.

Desmond Ryan BL, who appeared for the company, said the sales executive was dismissed on the grounds of his conduct after an investigation.

"The conduct in question related to bullying of his manager and another colleague," he said.

Mr Ryan submitted that the firm tried to deal with the issues on an informal basis in May 2019 as it was a "first offence" and they wanted to give the sales executive "a chance to improve his tone, reactions and behaviours".

The executive emailed to apologise for his language, calling it "too direct, probably rude" on May 15, Mr Ryan said, which the company argued "did not nearly capture the seriousness" of his behaviour.

It was the firm's position that it gave the complainant "every reasonable opportunity to re-evaluate his inappropriate behaviours", but these "only worsened over time".

Two formal complaints were made against him in late May and early June 2019, leading to an investigation and then a disciplinary process.

On June 6, the complainant was suspended with pay pending further investigation.

At disciplinary meetings on September 6, 2019, the complainant's position was that he was "frustrated by errors in account and lead allocation" which "aggravated the circumstances", Mr Ryan said.

The complainant acknowledged a WhatsApp clip in which he said "either you do something or I will do something about it" may have been something his line manager found threatening.

The chair of the disciplinary process concluded the behaviour was bullying. The executive was dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct in September 2019. The firm's executive vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa heard an appeal and upheld the dismissal.

Daniel Johnson, for the complainant, said the investigation was not properly isolated from the disciplinary process.

His client was not allowed to cross-examine the men who made claims against him and the process failed to take into account "robust language was part of the workplace culture".

He said there was no formal warning issued and the precise grounds were "unclear".

In his decision, adjudicating officer Breiffni O'Neill found the dismissal of the man was "both substantively and procedurally unfair" and that he was therefore unfairly dismissed.

The complainant, who was out of work until mid-2021, had sought to be reinstated, but Mr O'Neill said he had contributed to his dismissal by his conduct and the working relationship between the parties had broken down, and therefore he would award compensation.

Mr O'Neill made an award for 75pc of the loss suffered by the man - €329,199.

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