Case Number: ADJ- 00012333. Workplace Relations Commission

CourtWorkplace Relations Commission
Docket NumberADJ- 00012333
Date19 November 2018
Hearing Date17 May 2018
PartiesA care worker Vs. A state agency
RespondentA state agency

Procedure:

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

Background:

The Complainant was originally employed in a clerical capacity by the Respondent in 2001. In April 2002 she was appointed a Trainee Childcare Worker and assigned to a position with the Respondent in the Dublin area.

In January 2004 the Complainant was appointed as a Child Care Worker to a Special Care Unit in Dublin on a temporary capacity and was eventually awarded a Contract of Indefinite Duration in May 2004.

At the time events which led to the Complainant being place on Administrative Leave began to unfold in 2009/2010, she remained employed as a Child Care Worker and was a Shift Coordinator.

In January 2014, the Complainant’s employment transferred to another Government Agency upon that agencies establishment. She is currently employed as a Social Care Worker with this agency and is currently assigned to an establishment in Co. Kildare.

This assignment commenced when the Complainant returned from her Administrative Leave in July 2017.

The Complaint was received by the Workplace Relations Commission on 19th December 2017.

Summary of Complainant’s Case:

BACKGROUND

1. Both the Complainant and her husband were employed by the Respondent at a Special Care Unit. In the early part of 2009 concerns were brought to the attention of the management of the centre regarding the interactions between certain members of staff and young persons who were clients/residents of the centre. Specifically concerns regarding what is referred to as “the XX incident” was brought to the attention of management.

2. Both the Complainant and her husband were the subject of a campaign of bullying and harassment by certain members of staff and they were subject to being isolated and ignored by them. Sometime in November / December 2009 the Complainant received a complaint from a young boy at the centre that he had been physically abused. She reported the matter to management. Two staff members were suspended pending an investigation of the allegations.

3. In November 2009, a public blog was set up on the internet relating to the “XX incident”. Numerous references were made by the anonymous blogger(s) who claimed to be staff members. There were derogatory references to the Complainant on the blog site and comments which were both abusive and intimidating. This continued through the month of December 2009.

4. In addition to the above, text messages were sent to a number of staff outside of work on their personal mobiles. The text messages related to the Complainant and were sent from an unidentified mobile phone number. The number did not match any of the staff telephone numbers on the official list. Some of the staff members who received the text messages advised the Complainant. The Complainant’s husband with the assistance of colleagues took steps to establish the identity of the person sending the offending texts.

5. On 23rd February 2010, both the Complainant’s and her husband’s tax documents went missing from the pile of documents sent down from the administration building. A search is carried out by management and staff members for the missing documents to no avail. Eventually the missing documents were found in a locked confidential shredding bin. Out of the entire staff team (50) these were the only two documents tampered with.

6. Subsequently, a meeting was held in the Director’s office to address ongoing intimidation and bullying issues. Present at the meeting were the Complainant’s husband, the Acting Director and the Acting Head of Care. During that meeting the issues were discussed frankly and assurances were given to the Complainant’s husband that they would both be supported through their rosters being amended to keep the alleged perpetrator away from them.

7. On 24th February 2010 an anonymous note was left in the public staff communication book (which all staff members read daily). The note was a half-page long and ridiculed the Complainant and her husband. The staff phoned the Acting Head of Care to inform him of the incident and he immediately came to the staff office and removed the note from the book to stop any further humiliation.

8. The Complainant’s husband sent a detailed letter to the Acting Head of Care in relation to events and requesting an action plan to deal with ongoing issues.

9. Following a meeting held with management relating to the above issues the Complainant’s husband received a letter from the Acting Head of Care. The letter stated that as a management response to the ongoing issues mentioned above that “we have amended the staff roster allowing no cross over with individuals mentioned in this meeting as best we can”. In practice this meant that the Complainant and her husband would be based at another Centre and on an outreach project to keep them safe from further malicious acts.

10. On 11th June 2012, both the Complainant and her husband received letters from the Employee Relations Manager stating that the Respondent have agreed to reassign both of them to XXXXXXXXX. All members of staff at the Centre received these letters with each being redeployed to different areas. The redeployment never happened.

11. On 27th September 2010 the Complainant had been working at another Centre for a period of five months as a supportive measure. On this day she received a phone call from a staff member in the original Centre stating that she must report for work at the original Centre. This call gave notice of 1.5 hours’ notice. On turning up at the original Centre, she noticed that two of the individuals who had subjected her to bullying and intimidation were on the Units. As these are the two alleged perpetrators of the bullying, she asked to speak with the Acting Director. She asked for an explanation as to why she had been asked to come to the original Centre as the ongoing issues were still unresolved. The Acting Director informed her that she should just ignore these people and instructed her to go down to the Units. She became very upset and left the Centre ill and distressed and went to her GP.

12. On 29th September 2010 she sent the Acting Director a detailed letter re what happened on the 27th September 2010 and reminded him of all the ongoing issues that he had failed to address.

13. She subsequently received a letter from the Acting Director inviting her to a pre-disciplinary meeting to be held at the original Centre. The union representative informed the Acting Director that she would attend however it would be a meeting to progress her ongoing complaint and not a pre-disciplinary meeting. She attended the meeting on that basis. No progress was made at the meeting as the Acting Director told her that she needed to “ignore these people” and “get on with it”. She remained on sick leave as she found out she was pregnant.

14. Various meetings were held with management during October 2010 in an effort to resolve issues. Alternative proposals were put forward to no avail.

15. On or about 18th October 2010 there was public commentary over a social networking site relating to the Complainant. This was done through the Facebook site and clearly mentioned the original Centre and employer and gave specifically the names of two members directly relating to a complaint that she took from a young person at the centre.

16. By letter sent from the Complainant’s GP to the Respondent, it explained that she was very distressed with being bullied at work and that she was now pregnant. The letter recommended that she should not go back to the stressful environment of the original centre. Subsequently, she remained out of work using her full entitlement of sick leave which was then extended further as negotiations continued between the union representative and the Respondent.

17. Both the Complainant and her husband raised the issue of the comments on Facebook and requested that management take action including a request for a formal investigation.

18. On 9th March 2011 a letter was received by the...

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