Quigley -v- Complex Tooling & Moulding, [2005] IEHC 71 (2005)

Docket Number:2001 16585 P
Party Name:Quigley, Complex Tooling & Moulding
Judge:Lavan J.
 
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Neutral citation no. [2005] IEHC 71 THE HIGH COURT

[2001 No. 16585P]

BETWEEN

MATT QUIGLEY

PLAINTIFF

AND

COMPLEX TOOLING AND MOULDING DEFENDANTJUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Vivian Lavan delivered on 9th of March 2005

Facts

These proceeding concern a claim for damages for personal injuries arising from the plaintiff's employment with the defendant. The plaintiff is a married man with a family who lives in Kells, Co. Meath. Having worked in England for a period of time, he commenced working for a company called Southborough, a predecessor of the defendant, in 1977. He was employed as a factory operative and by the time of the events relevant to these proceedings he had become the forth most senior employee. At some point, Southborough were taken over by Unidare Plc without any alteration in the plaintiff's working conditions and then at some point during 1998 the business was taken over by the defendant.

The defendant is a limited liability company and was engaged in the assembly of computer parts. Following the takeover by the defendant, a new plant manager, Mr. Ron Skinner, was appointed. The plaintiff's complaints in these proceedings relate to his treatment at the hands of this new plant manager.

The plaintiff claims that he was subjected to a campaign of harassment, bullying, humiliation and victimisation, which involved being subjected to excessive scrutiny, unfair and unreasonable treatment by the Plant Manager of the defendant company, Ron Skinner, and the Managing Director, Denis Hampton.

The plaintiff claims that despite frequent complaints to the defendant, its servants or agents about harassment, abuse and bullying, the defendant, its servants or agents, failed, refused or neglected to take any reasonable steps to prevent or stop the same. As a result of this he says he suffered severe mental distress and personal injury and seeks damages.

The plaintiff claims that his contract of employment contained the following express or in the alternative implied terms, that:-

(a) he would not be subjected to oppressive, unreasonable or arbitrary treatment in his workplace,

(b) he would not be subject to harassment and or intimidation in the workplace,

(c) the defendant, its servants or agents would maintain mutual trust and

confidence in the plaintiff and would not so conduct themselves so as to damage the plaintiff's health and, in particular, his psychological health,

(d) the defendant would take reasonable care to ensure that complaints

about harassment were dealt with fairly and promptly.

Particulars of the alleged breach of contract, negligence and breach of duty are set out in the plaintiff's statement of claim, and various incidents are described. The plaintiff also claims that he complained about the conduct of the defendant to his shop steward Mr. Paul Clarke and that complaints were made to management but that there was no improvement.

The plaintiff received a verbal warning in June 1999 as a result of an incident over "wash-up" policy. While other employees who had breached this policy had their warnings removed, this was not the case for the plaintiff. He then sought clarification from management as to why his warning remained on the file during which he had used abusive language towards the Human Resource Manager, for which he later apologised. The apology was not accepted and he received a final written warning and a two-day suspension. The plaintiff was called to a disciplinary hearing in October 1999 following an unofficial work stoppage in which the plaintiff was involved. There is no suggestion that the plaintiff organised the stoppage. The plaintiff was then dismissed from his employment on the 19th of August 1999 following the hearing.

The plaintiff states that he was told to leave by the front door and all of his personal possessions would be forwarded to him and he would not be allowed to collect them himself.

Following his dismissal the plaintiff commended proceeding seeking re-instatement pursuant to the Unfair Dismissal Acts 1977-1993. These proceedings commenced on the 9th November, 1999 and came before a Rights Commissioner on the 17th and 23rd February, 2000. The Rights Commissioner's decision of the 10th March 2000 recommended that the plaintiffs be re-engaged. The defendant then appealed to the EAT and that case was heard on various dates during 2000 and then 2002. In a determination dated 7th February 2003 the EAT rejected the defendant's appeal and held that the dismissal was unfair and ordered re-engagement.

The defendant's plant had closed down in July, 2002 so the effect of the decision of the EAT was to treat the plaintiff as having been deemed to be still in the employment of the defendant up to the closure of the plant and therefore the plaintiff became entitled to a redundancy payment pursuant to the redundancy payment legislation as his employment would in any event have ended by July, 2002 when the factory closed.

Although it heard evidence from the plaintiff on the alleged harassment and bullying, the EAT made no determination in respect of these claims. The Plant Manger made no statement before the Tribunal. The Tribunal felt that the absence of the Plant Manger, being a vital witness, made it difficult to assess what exactly was conveyed to the employee

By virtue of having brought proceedings for unfair dismissal the plaintiff is not entitled to claim damages for wrongful dismissal. This is the position by virtue of section 15 of the Unfair Dismissal Act 1977 as amended by section 10 of the Amendment Act 1993. Section 15(2) as amended provides:

"Where a recommendation has been made by a rights commissioner in respect of a claim by an employee for redress under this Act or the hearing of a claim by the Tribunal has commenced, the employee shall not be entitled to recover damages at common law for wrongful dismissal in respect of the dismissal concerned."

As a result the plaintiff in these proceedings does not and could not seek compensation for wrongful dismissal.

The Conduct of the Defendant

The uncontradicted facts of the harassment claimed by the plaintiff are laid out in the statement of claim as follows:-

"(a) During the month of July/August in 1998 the Plaintiff was subjected to humiliation at the hands of the Defendant Managing Director, Denis Hampton, following his refusal to accept an voluntary redundancy package which had been offered to him by John Dory, on behalf of the Defendant. During a meeting on the issue, the Plaintiff enquired of John Dory as to what was the reason behind the fact that he was the only member of staff to be offered voluntary redundancy, stating that it was the principle that interested him. John Dory stated "the principle, don't make me laugh", at which Denis Hampton laughed also.

(b) The Defendants its servant or agents made humiliating and demeaning reference to and about the Plaintiff, such as on the 6th of April 1999, when Ron Skinner informed Fidelma Browne, an operative into the Defendant Company, that the Plaintiff and a colleague Seamus Reilly, would into be retaining their Grade 11 rate of pay, and stated "don't worry, I'll sort out the granddads". On another occasion, after the Plaintiff had through exasperation resulting from the bullying and intimidation at work, raised his voice to a colleague, Ron Skinner asked Seamus Reilly "Do you think that Matt talks to his wife like that. Do you think she would accept being spoken to like this?,

(c) The Plaintiff was subjected to excessive and humiliating scrutiny by the Defendant's Plant Manager, Mr. Ron Skinner. He often stood for up to 30 minutes on a box approximately 8 feet behind the Plaintiff's work station, with the effect of intimidating the plaintiff. He also made comments about the Plaintiff's work, for example stating to Joe Power (an operative in the employ of the Defendant ) that he would have to give the Plaintiff "some broom training", suggesting that the Plaintiff was not capable of the most basic duties, when in fact he had received two awards for cleanest work area from previous management. The plaintiff felt that the purpose of this intimidation and scrutiny was that Ron Skinner was engaging in a campaign to seek justifications for not paying the Plaintiff his Grade 11 rate of pay."

This evidence was supported by colleagues who also witnessed this practise.

The plaintiff complained about the bullying and abuse to the shop steward, Mr. Paul Clarke on the 24th of July, 1998. He also complained firstly to Ron Skinner himself, and...

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