Case Number: ADJ-00016085. Workplace Relations Commission

Docket NumberADJ-00016085
Date20 February 2019
CourtWorkplace Relations Commission
PartiesAn Assistant Manager v Bank

In accordance with Section 79 of the Employment Equality Acts, 1998 - 2015, 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).


The Complainant commenced employment with the Respondent, a bank, in October 1981. The Complainant was promoted to the rank of Assistant Manager (AM) in 2004. Her employment ended in June 2018. The Complainant was paid a gross monthly salary of €4,750. A complaint was lodged with the Workplace Relations Commission on 28th July 2018.

Summary of Complainant’s Case:

The Complainant submits that she was discriminated against by way of her disability. She was discriminated against in relation to promotion, training, victimisation and was dismissed for discriminatory reasons. The Complainant alleges that she was constructively dismissed.

The Complainant submitted that she has suffered from anxiety/depression for some years. In 2013 this manifested itself in the form of agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder in which she felt compelled to avoid places or situations that might cause her to panic or feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed. The Complainant submits that this condition arose after she had attended a leadership training programme introduced by the bank. During the course the Complainant felt bullied, exposed and to a degree frightened to attend work. She did complain bur stopped short of mentioning what she considered to be bullying by the course facilitator. She went sick and was absent for four months.

On her return to work the Complainant submits that she was no longer allowed carry out staff reviews or set staff objectives, was no longer invited to meetings with Senior Management, was no longer invited to Assistant Manager (AM) meetings and staff were advised to contact another Assistant Manager regarding sick leave etc.

The Complainant was told that the reason for these changes was because she had not completed the leadership programme. However, the Complainant submits that AMs on other teams were still completing their normal tasks and attending meetings without having attended the same leadership programme. The Complainant felt the real reason behind her treatment was the nature of her illness. For several years up to 2013 she had successfully run teams and ay all times her personal reviews remained satisfactory.

In 2016, a new manager was appointed who, the Complainant submits, could not understand why the Complainant was not allowed to fulfil the AM role and he set out to rectify this. Initially the new manager and the Complainant had a good relationship and positive reviews continued under his management. However, as the Complainant’s health deteriorated so too did their relationship.

In 2017, the Complainant again became ill with agoraphobia and was absent for a period of five months. Around the same time the Complainant was also diagnosed with microscopic colitis and attended the company doctor on several occasions during this absence.

When the Complainant returned to work in November 2017 a new line manager had been appointed. Initially the Complainant settled back into work on a short working week, as advised by the company doctor. The complainant used annual leave rather than sick leave during this period.

The Complainant was then asked to temporarily transfer from her department to another department in another part of the city, until after the Christmas period.

The Complainant submits that when she arrived at the new location on 30th November 2017 it was obvious to her that the manager of that department did not know what to do with her. He was expecting a full-time lower grade staff member and not the Complainant. The Complainant had little to do and advised the manager that she was happy to do any work as long as she was busy and helpful.

During her period in this location the Complainant requested that she visit the company doctor as she had been advised, however her line manager suggested there was no need at that stage and if the Complainant felt it was necessary the Complainant could make an appointment, even though such an appointment could only be arranged through HR.

On her return to her own team after Christmas the Complainant found there had been several changes to her team and that her desk had been removed from the team, who were all sitting together. The hard drive of her computer was missing. The Complainant’s line manager was on leave and had not sent the Complainant any emails to advise the Complainant of the changes to the team and the Complainant’s responsibilities in the new team set up. The other AM with whom the Complainant had worked for many years had been moved to a project team and his replacement spoke to the Complainant with “utter disrespect.” The Complainant felt totally isolated and surplus to requirements. She was not given access to new folders and was thus unable to do her job to the best of her abilities. The Complainant was left with no direction on a team which she had effectively been absent from for six months. The Complainant suffered from palpitations and was again absent from work for a period of three weeks, from 8th January to 29th January 2018.

The Complainant and her line manager had meetings on the 29th and 31st January. The Complainant does not believe her line manager had any genuine concern for her health issues. The Complainant believes her line manager did not want her on the new team. The line manager suggested a transfer to another team and that the Complainant should contact HR to see if they could do something for her, including perhaps a termination package of some sort.

The Complainant submits that she complained to her line manager about the AM she was working with in the team. Her line manager subsequently discussed her complaint with the AM and two other AMs. The Complainant felt this was unprofessional and raised it with her line manager. Her line manager disagreed with her and as the Complainant was upset suggested she should return to her GP as perhaps the Complainant needed more sick leave.

The Complainant submits that her line manager was very dismissive regarding concerns raised by the Complainant about her ability to carry out her work due to lack of access to folders. The line manager advised the Complainant that this would be sorted out over time. The line manager completed the Complainant’s performance review for 2017, which for the first time was not satisfactory.

The Complainant found her position increasingly difficult in early 2018. She began to suffer from work related stress, which was certified by her GP, and caused her to go sick from 5th February. The Complainant attended the company doctor on a number of occasions. Her last visit to the company doctor was on 2nd May 2018, she was meant to be referred to see him six weeks after that visit, but the bank did not arrange for the visit, which must be done through HR.

The Complainant wrote to the Group Director of Operations on 23rd February 2018, outlining her concerns.

The Complainant submits that because of her employer’s conduct up to and including 5th February and the lack of interest in dealing with her health issues after that, including those issues caused by the bank’s treatment of her, she felt her position was no longer tenable. She wrote to the bank on 28th June 2018 informing them of this and the fact that she holds them responsible for the termination of her employment by constructive dismissal.

In oral evidence at the hearing the Complainant's representative stated that when the Complainant returned to work in November 2017, despite concerns raised by the company doctor, it was "business as usual", no one checked with her how she was, and no arrangement was made for a follow up visit. The Complainant insists she was left to sort out her own medical problems. This was, in the eyes of the Complainant, well below the expected standards of a decent employer. Someone with Agoraphobia would struggle in such circumstances and the Respondent should have taken this into account.

In her own oral evidence at the hearing the Complainant sated that she was conscientious employee, who had never been complained of and had a high level of discretion. However, things changed in 2013 due to her illness. As her health deteriorated so too did her relationship with the bank.

The Complainant stated that when she was transferred to the other office in late 2017 they made a job up for her; the manager was expecting a level 5 person but got a (higher) level 4 person. On her return to her original office she says she was "spoken to like dirt", by another AM and although she complained about this she felt she was dealt with any way satisfactorily. The Complainant felt the issues were accumulating and in the end...

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