Price v Airlie Stud

JurisdictionIreland
CourtEmployment Appeal Tribunal (Ireland)
Judgment Date05 Dec 2007
Judgment citation (vLex)[2007] 12 JIEC 0501

Employment Appeals Tribunal

EAT: Price (claimant) v Airlie Stud (respondent)

Abstract:

Employment - Termination of employment - Summary dismissal - Fair procedures - Investigation of incident involving use of physical force by claimant against co-worker - Whether employer failing to conduct proper and thorough investigation into incident alleged to amount to gross misconduct - Whether claimant unfairly dismissed - Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2001

EMPLOYMENT APPEALS TRIBUNAL

CLAIM(S) OF:

CASE NO.

Gerard Price, 34 Castle Village Green, Celbridge, Co

WT268/2007

Kildare

UD791/2007

Against

Airlie Stud, Grangewilliam, Maynooth, Co Kildare

Under

ORGANISATION OF WORKING TIME ACT, 1997

UNFAIR DISMISSALS ACTS, 1977 TO 2001

I certify that the Tribunal

(Division of Tribunal)

Chairman:

Ms P. McGrath BL

Members:

Mr M. Noone

Ms M. Finnerty

heard this claim at Dublin on 5th December 2007

Facts an altercation developed between the claimant and another employee of the respondent, following which the claimant was summarily dismissed. Evidence was given that the claimant had not been working satisfactorily just prior to the incident in question.

Held in awarding the claimant €2,700 under the Unfair Dismissals Acts that misconduct, such as an inexplicable assault on a work colleague could, from time to time, justify a summary dismissal. However, in the absence of witnessing such an event, the employer had to conduct a full and comprehensive investigation into such an allegation. The investigation was fundamentally flawed for failure to observe those principles and the failure to allow or encourage representation was also a flaw.

The determination of the Tribunal was as follows:-
Background
1

Counsel for the respondent told the Tribunal that in May 2007 the claimant struck and assaulted a fellow employee Mr. G. This incident was taken in the context of earlier warnings. This warranted dismissal for gross misconduct. Assault is without question a ground, which warranted dismissal. The claimant received eight weeks notice and was paid in recognition of his service.

2

The claimant's representative told the Tribunal that the claimant had twenty-nine years loyal service with the respondent. On the 21 May 2007 the claimant reported for work and was involved in an altercation with a fellow employee Mr. G who asked him to clean out a stable. Mr. G became very agitated and put his head to the claimant and clenched his fists, the claimant returned to work and was summoned to the office and sent home. On 23 May 2007 the claimant went to the proprietor's office and he was informed later on that day that he was dismissed.

Respondent's Case
3

Mr. G told the Tribunal that he is from France and he came to Ireland four years ago. He commenced work in July 2006 with the respondent. His tasks included cleaning the boxes and he undertook whatever work the manager asked him to do. He let the mares out in the morning, he mucked out the boxes/stables and in the evening he brought the mares in. Three employees and the claimant were at his level and they undertook more work than the claimant. Mr. G cleaned three to four boxes while the claimant cleaned one box.

4

On 21 May 2007 he started to clean out the boxes. The manager Mr. K asked the claimant to bring the tractor to load up the muckheap. There was a complete clear out to the central heap of muck and straw and this usually took all morning. The claimant told Mr. G that there was one more box to be cleaned. Mr. G asked the claimant what he was doing and he told the claimant that he was a lazy man. He did not understand why some employees did not have to work. Mr. G had cleaned five or six boxes and his colleagues had all done their fair share. The claimant had not done anything other than bring up the tractor and he stood beside Mr. G. Mr. G asked the claimant to help him and he refused. The claimant told Mr. G that he was not his manager and he did not use bad language when addressing the claimant. The claimant tried to fight with him but Mr. G told him that he did not want to fight him. The claimant scratched him and as a result he had a mark on his nose. An employee went to the claimant's assistance and another employee went to assist Mr. G and separated them. He went to the office and explained to his manager Mr. K what had happened. Mr. G was nervous and he spoke to Mr. H the proprietor. Mr. G continued with his work and he has not seen the claimant since the fight. He did not consider asking the claimant for help was provocation. The claimant was never particularly friendly to him.

5

In cross-examination he stated all he did was ask the claimant for help. He accepted that he was not the claimant's manager and everyone else did more work than the claimant. He tried to be nice to the claimant but the claimant never greeted him. He was not sent home or suspended after he made a complaint. All his colleagues did the same job. He did not receive medical attention after the altercation. He had worked with the respondent for ten months and the claimant as employed for almost thirty years.

6

In answer to questions from the Tribunal he stated that the claimant got on well with his colleagues. He did not make a complaint regarding...

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