Case Number: ADJ-00000135. Workplace Relations Commission

CourtWorkplace Relations Commission
Docket NumberADJ-00000135
Date25 April 2016
PartiesA Production Engineer v Manufacturer
ADJUDICATION OFFICER DECISION

Adjudication Decision Reference: ADJ-00000135

Complaint(s)/Dispute(s) for Resolution:

Act

Complaint/Dispute Reference No.

Date of Receipt

Complaint seeking adjudication by the Workplace Relations Commission under Section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977

CA-00000196-001

12/10/2015

Date of Adjudication Hearing: 25/01/2016

Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Ray Flaherty

Procedure:

In accordance with Section 41(4) of the Workplace Relations Act, 2015 and Section 8(1B) of the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977 following the referral of the complaint(s)/dispute(s) to me by the Director General, I inquired into the complaint(s)/dispute(s) and gave the parties an opportunity to be heard by me and to present to me any evidence relevant to the complaint(s)/dispute(s).

Complainant’s Submission and Presentation:

Decision to dismiss was disproportionate and fair procedures were not followed

During the Hearing the following submission and representations were by and on behalf of the Complainant:

Preliminary Point:

The Complainant's claim of Unfair Dismissal is based on the fact that he considers the decision to dismiss him to be disproportionate and that fair procedures were not followed.

In a document submitted at the conclusion of the hearing the Complainant made a preliminary point with regard to the Respondent's failure to comply with his request for information under Data Protection legislation. According to the Complainant the documents he requested was a copy of the investigation report that formed the basis of his dismissal. He claims the Respondent failed to provide this information.

On that basis, the Complainant stated that it would be unreasonable to proceed with the appeal without that information. He further suggests that this shows he was not afforded his constitutional right to fair procedures and that the decision to dismiss him was prejudged and unfair.

Substantive issues:

Evidence presented to the Hearing by the Complainant's legal representative requests that the reasonableness of the Respondent's conduct in relation to the dismissal should be taken into consideration. It was stated that Section 6 of the Unfair Dismissal Act (1997) sets out the onus of proof in that all dismissals are deemed "unfair" unless there are substantial grounds justifying the dismissal.

The Complainant also called into question whether or not a proper investigation and/or a product recall was undertaken in relation to the batch of harnesses which he was blamed for. In this regard, the Complainant suggests that he was dismissed before the investigation was carried out by management. He contends that this should have been completed in advance of any disciplinary meeting. Based on this, the Complainant contends that he was dismissed unfairly.

Submission on behalf of the Complainant stated that there is a duty on the employer to conduct an investigation in a fair and objective manner and that such an investigation will be crucial in determining whether the employer acted reasonably towards the employee in relation to the alleged incident.

The Complainant alleges that management did not follow fair procedure from the outset and that dismissal is obviously an excessively harsh punishment for something he hadn't done. The Complainant also made particular reference to the fact that, during the manufacturing process, the defective harnesses passed through quality checks at a number of stages and were not detected as they should have been. The Complainant further stated that if the quality processes had been functioning correctly then the defective goods would never have reached the customers.

The Complainant contends that he was singled out for special and unfavourable treatment after almost 10 years of faultless and dedicated service to the Respondent. In support of this the Complainant stated that in recognition of his skills and effectiveness he had been promoted from the position of general operative to an engineering position.

The Complainant further stated that, after 10 years of faultless service, he informed the General Manager, in October 2015, about his personal/health problems. The Complainant further alleged that rather than receiving support from his employer he was demoted from the engineering position back to a position of general operative.

Finally, with regard to training, the Complainant contends that the Respondent failed to provide him with training in relation to the work he was expected to perform following his demotion to the position of general operative. The Complainant also contends that he wasn't offered any support training to help him do the work despite the fact that he had requested it on several occasions. In this regard, the Complainant referred to ISO 9001 and highlighted a number of points with regard to competence, awareness and training, which, he contends, relates to his situation.

Conclusion:

In summary, the Complainant stated that the procedures adopted by the Respondent were defective and unfair and resulted in a deeply flawed process from the outset. As a result he contends that he was not afforded his constitutional right to fair procedure.

Respondent’s Submission and Presentation:

During the Hearing the Respondent made the following submission and representations.

Background:

The Respondent is a well-established assembler of cable and harness products, which are sold into the medical and electronics industries.

The Respondent stated in evidence that on 25 June 2015 they received a call from one of their biggest customers advising that one of their (the Respondent's) harasses had proved defective when being inserted into a product being assembled by the customer. The Respondent was informed by the customer that the quality of the product in question was not up to required standards.

By using a product code to identify the defective item, the Respondent discovered that it was one of a batch of twenty five (25) which had been produced specifically for one of their major customers. It was further discovered that of the twenty five (25), nine (9) had already been delivered to the customer. Of those nine (9), four (4) were found to be still in the customer’s plant, while the remaining five (5) had been built into other products which have been shipped to their customers in Scandinavia.

The Respondent stated in evidence that the provision of substandard product to one of their major customers, which had been subsequently built into their product for on sale, had serious consequences for the Respondent both in terms of industry reputation and potential future business.

On investigation, the Respondent found that the particular batch of harnesses had been worked on by the Complainant. The Respondent's investigation showed that the problems identified by the customer were repeated throughout the portion of the batch which they were in a position to inspect (i.e. the four (4) harnesses which were still on the customer's premises and the sixteen (16) which were still in the Respondent's warehouse awaiting dispatch to the customer).

The Respondent stated in evidence that the Complainant had not completed the "travel card" for the batch of harnesses in question as per documented company procedures. In addition,...

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