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'serious incident' Van driver has unfair dismissal case thrown out for not telling bosses he'd struck pedestrian

A solicitor for O'Connor said his client was not intoxicated, he didn’t flee the scene, he stopped, but the pedestrian ran away

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A van driver was dismissed for gross misconduct for not telling his bosses that he struck a pedestrian when driving a company van in a road traffic accident.

At the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), Adjudicator, Ewa Sobanska has now thrown out Thomas O’Connor’s claim for unfair dismissal against Premier Auto Parts Resources Limited trading as Premier Auto Parts.

Premier Auto Parts dismissed Mr O'Connor in October 2020 after he admitted to not informing his bosses that he had left the scene of an accident on August 5th 2020 after colliding with a pedestrian while he was carrying out his work duties.

The firm stated that Mr O'Connor, along with not reporting the incident to his employer, did not report the matter to An Garda Síochána.

Mr O’Connor commenced his employment for Premier Auto Parts in 2012 and Premier Auto Parts only became aware of the “serious incident” when enquiries were made of Mr O’Connor concerning visible damage to his work vehicle.

Solicitor for Mr O’Connor, Terence F Casey & Co told the hearing that it was a very minor incident, nobody was hurt and there was minimal damage to the vehicle, which cannot be considered as gross negligent misconduct.

The solicitor stated that Mr O'Connor was not intoxicated, he didn’t flee the scene, he stopped but the pedestrian ran away.

In her findings, Ms Sobanska stated that Mr O’Connor, as a professional driver, would have been aware of his obligation to report a collision that resulted in injury to the Gardaí and to his employer immediately.

Ms Sobanska stated that while Mr O’Connor seemed to rely on his assessment that the pedestrian was not seriously injured, and he emphasised that the pedestrian got up and ran away, it is clear that at the time of the incident Mr O’Connor did not have either the knowledge or indeed the expertise to assess the state of the pedestrian involved in the incident.

Ms Sobanska stated: “In any event, the fact of the matter is that the complainant struck a pedestrian while driving for work and he did not report it either to the Gardaí or to the Respondent.”

Ms Sobanska noted that Mr O’Connor insisted that he had every intention to do so.

She stated: “However, there was no dispute that on the next day he considered attending to the matter of the broken mirror more pressing than reporting the matter to his manager. This, in my opinion, displays his poor judgment and raises some concerns.”

In her findings, Ms Sobanska stated that as a result of Mr O’Connor's action or inaction, Premier Auto Parts “had every entitlement to lose confidence and trust in him".

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She stated: “I am of the view that any employer faced with the same circumstances to those that pertained in this case would have acted in the same way."

Dismissing Ms Sobanska’s claim, Ms Sobanska found that the decision by Premier Auto Parts to dismiss Mr O’Connor was within the band of reasonable responses open to a reasonable employer.

In evidence, Mr O’Connor stated that he had an unblemished record for Premier Auto Parts over eight years.

Mr O’Connor argued that the pedestrian did not get injured and ran away. He maintained that his intention was to report the matter the next morning.

He added that he did not see the need to contact the Gardai as he “didn’t know the fellow on the road” and “had nothing to say to Gardai”.

Mr O’Connor said that after his employer had reported the incident to the Gardai, he got a call and was told that everything was okay and that nobody came forward.

He confirmed that he has not taken up new employment since the dismissal and he has not applied for any jobs.

He confirmed that he engages in car sales from a social media page.

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