Hoban v Applus Car Testing Service Ltd
EMPLOYMENT APPEALS TRIBUNAL
CASE NO. UD519/2013
The respondent company operates the national car testing (NCT) service on behalf of the Road Safety Authority (RSA). Regular audits of the test centres are carried out to ensure a high standard of service is delivered.
The claimant commenced employment with the respondent company in December 2006 in the role of vehicle co-ordinator/administrator in Centre A. His duties included booking in vehicles for testing, taking payments, general office duties and occasionally acting as car marshal. The claimant had no role in testing vehicles.
On the commencement of employment the employees are given the Employment Handbook as well as the Code of Integrity. These highlight the company rules and give guidance to employees. The contractual conflict of interest clause provides that where a family member or friend presents a vehicle for inspection it must be reported to the line manager or manager who will arrange for another vehicle inspector (VI) to carry out the test. Under the Code of Integrity an employee is not permitted to drive a vehicle that is not his/hers to the test centre for a test. Employees can only bring their own or a family member's car for a test and must inform the team leader when doing so.
VIs (vehicle inspectors/testers) can benefit from a productivity scheme payment. As part of the scheme there is a facility to test a vehicle at short notice where there has been a cancellation anda time slot is available on a given day. The facility was introduced to boost the number of vehicles tested and employees were encouraged to make family, friends or others aware of the facility. A short notice booking declaration form is completed by the presenter/owner of the vehicle in such circumstances. The vehicle owner's passport or driving licence must be presented to obtain the road worthiness certificate.
The claimant found his working environment difficult at times. He was isolated and excluded and constantly overlooked when work was being delegated. On one occasion he had dealt with an aggressive customer who had, driven his car at him outside the premises. There was a dispute as to whether the claimant had said that he had been hit by the car in that incident. When he reported the incident, the manager asked him what he had done to cause such an incident. Following on from the incident the claimant was sent to the respondent's Fonthill site for training for one week. However, personnel there were taken aback on his arrival as he had not been scheduled in for training so he worked alongside the administration staff there for the week. While there he noticed some differences between the presenter identification processes there and on his return to Cork sought to implement these.
On 20 July 2012 the claimant sent an e-mail to the respondent's HR manager (HRM), outlining some problems he was having in the workplace including inter alia: that he was being ignored and excluded by other members of staff; that the manager was not very interactive with him and delegates all the work to his colleague; that when he mentioned the latter point to the manager he told him that it was because of his "terrible" body odour and that he did not want to stand near him because of "that smell"; that some VIs test acquaintances' cars at lunch time; and that VIs ask the administration staff to reassign acquaintances' cars to them. In this e-mail the claimant informed HRM that he finds the workplace stressful and depressing, that the respondent is failing in its duty of care to him and referred to his earlier and similar experience there which resulted in his having to take sick leave.
HRM met with the claimant on site on 9 August and in her follow-up email of 30 August 2012 to him, she reiterated her request for the specifics details including the names of those who had ignored him, the dates on which it had occurred and the names of any witnesses to the incidents. She also sought supporting evidence on the alleged testing of acquaintances' cars at lunch time and the reassignment of cars to VIs, as this would be "a very serious matter". In this regard HRM informed the claimant that the manager accepted that work was done in the centre at lunch time in connection with the productivity scheme payment. As regards the booking in processes the manager and the regional manager (RM) had assured her that the processes in place in Centre A were acceptable. Finally, HRM informed the claimant that the manager accepted that he had dealt with the body odour issue insensitively and had undertaken to apologise to him about it....
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