Manager not unfairly sacked on Lanzarote trip

A manager who told her boss she couldn’t attend a conference because her back was out, but had booked a trip to Lanzarote for the same dates, has lost a €90,000 unfair dismissal claim.

The Workplace Relations Commission overheard one of Tara Keating’s colleagues entering her work emails while she was ill.

This person then made a report to the general manager of the company when he found personal emails there with the details of his flight.

Full disciplinary proceedings ensued.

Ms Keating’s claim under the Unfair Dismissal Act against Camfil (Ireland) Ltd was dismissed in a decision published today by the court.

However, he ordered the company to pay him €3,900 for sick pay, annual leave and bank holidays.

Mrs. Keating agreed [she had texted] the managing director of the Irish branch on September 5, 2019 stating: “My back is turned, and I’m in a wall with the upcoming event… I’m sorry to let you down on this.”

She said: “I threw up my hands, I messed up the dates. I freaked out.”

The company’s position was that Ms Keating had misled the company in an “artificial and deliberate manner” about her absence from work.

This, along with his “excessive” personal use of his work email, constituted gross misconduct.

Paul Flanagan, the company’s chief executive, told a hearing in March this year that it was with ‘shock and amazement’ that he discovered Ms Keating had a holiday booking that conflicted with the conference company’s half-yearly in September 2019.

He said the Irish branch was hosting the event and that that year the focus was on Ms Keating’s area of ​​work in procurement, he had worked closely with her on her presentation.

He said when he opened his account he saw ‘lots of email overuse’ with correspondence involving a laundry she owned in Navan, Co Meath and her husband’s scaffolding business .

Human resources consultant John Keenan, who appeared for Camfil, said it was the “main impetus” for the official investigation that followed.

This ultimately led to Ms Keating being fired on the basis of a finding of serious misconduct after disciplinary proceedings, he said.

Lars Asmussen BL, who appeared for Ms Keating on the instructions of barrister Neil Cosgrave, said the company’s disciplinary proceedings had been so ‘devastating’ that they rendered his client unemployable due to stress and anxiety.

Ms Keating said in evidence that she had returned from sick leave on October 30, 2019 to have been ‘ambushed’ by her boss, the company’s financial controller, Thomas Dullaghan, with notice of action disciplinary.

She says she was called into her office to be told that the company had carried out an investigation while she was on sick leave and discovered that she had used Camfil’s email address to run two family businesses and that she had “deliberately” taken a vacation coinciding with an important event. business conference.

“You’re suspended,” he told her.

“I was shocked,” she told the hearing. “He pushed me an envelope and said, ‘It’s all in there.’ I just left the building, he was talking 100 words a minute, it was like he had been slapped.

“I felt there was a vendetta and I had been a target since July [2019] when I emailed Thomas Dullaghan about harassment and bullying,” Ms Keating said.

She said her efforts to obtain copies of emails and other documents for her appeal were frustrated by her former supervisor, Mr Dullaghan, and she eventually made a legal demand for her records.

Mr Dullaghan admitted on cross-examination that the complainant had not received copies of the emails, in breach of the company manual.

However, he denied that there was a ‘manifest pattern of oppression’ in the way he corresponded with the complainant about the disciplinary proceedings, as Mr Asmussen had told him.

“There was no intention to make her feel uncomfortable,” Mr Dullaghan replied.

Ms Keating said her suspension and moving forward with the formal disciplinary process and appeal had a major impact on her mental health.

“To be honest, I couldn’t think straight. I was numb. Traumatized is the word,” she said.

Mr Asmussen argued that the WRC should award compensation to the maximum extent of its competence – double his €45,000 annual salary – in addition to additional sums for alleged breaches of employment law.

In his ruling, arbitrator Jim Dolan noted that the company’s disciplinary process “did not specifically address” the status of an employee appealing their termination.

But he said the dismissal would “become final” and would be implemented by decision of the appeals officer.

He further noted that the company had continued to accept Ms. Keating’s medical certificates.

He concluded that the exact date of his dismissal was five months after that indicated by the company – and confirmed the complaints under the law on the payment of wages and the organization of working time on this basis, granting him €3,970.90 for sick pay, annual leave and public holidays. duties due during this period.

But Mr Dolan wrote that the 230 personal emails found on his account “clearly indicated that [Ms] Keating conducted business…during her working hours as an employee of Camfil Ireland.”

He added that she had “failed to declare her intention to be absent” for the company conference and “behaved in a deceptive manner as if she intended to make the important presentation”.

“I believe the complainant has seriously damaged the relationship that should exist between employer and employee,” he wrote, adding that he was satisfied with the company’s investigation into his conduct.

He said the decision to fire her was reasonable and ruled that Ms Keating’s claim under the Unfair Dismissal Act was “not well founded”.

He dismissed another claim under the Terms and Conditions of Employment (Information) Act on the grounds that Ms Keating’s employment had commenced more than four years before it took effect.

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