Arrested dairy director wins court case for unfair dismissal

By Gordon Deegan

A business director at a dairy company, who was arrested for suspected car theft by the police after failing to return his company car, has been awarded €35,000 for his unfair dismissal.

In the case, Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer, Emile Daly, found that a genuine redundancy situation didn’t exist and that the man was unfairly dismissed.

However, the business director – who lives in Northern Ireland – was arrested by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in March 2018 after his former employer had reported their company car stolen.

Company car

After the man’s dismissal, the man retained the company car.

At the WRC hearing, the business director accepted that his former employer wrote to his solicitor on a number of occasions requesting that the car be returned.

On a number of occasions, his former employer threatened reporting the matter to the Gardaí if he did not return it and in March of last year finally reported the matter to the Gardaí.

The business director then contacted the Gardaí and he made an arrangement with them to return the car.

However, that day, when the man crossed the border the PSNI was alerted by the car’s registration that it had been reported as stolen.

The PSNI arrested him and from March until October 2018 he was under the threat of prosecution for theft before he was told that no prosecution would be made.

The car was returned to the dairy firm immediately following the arrest and confiscation of the car by the PSNI.

The man felt that he was treated very poorly by his former employer. He stated that from March onwards that the potential for criminal proceedings for car theft affected his ability to mitigate his loss as potential prospective employers were not comfortable.

The man – who was on a salary of €70,000 in his business director role – applied unsuccessfully for approximately 70 jobs since his dismissal and has eventually secured a driving job.

In her findings, WRC officer Daly did not accept that the complainant had a right to retain the company car following his dismissal.

She stated that his belief that his actions were legitimate as pre-litigation positioning against the company, were misconceived and should not have been facilitated by his legal advisor.

Daly stated that the business director may have been upset with how the dismissal occurred; he may have felt that the employer’s actions of promoting him in order to dismiss him were cynical. “However, while such emotions are understandable and while his judgement of their conduct was not without some basis, this does not give permission for wrongdoing on his part.”

Prior to being promoted to the role of business director, the man was employed as sales manager and was responsible for liquid milk north and south.

Redundancy

The business director claimed that in April 2017 the CEO took exception to the fact that he had attended a horse racing event at Punchestown with a former CEO and that there was a concerted effort by the CEO to sideline him.

On July 21, the firm’s HR manager told him that he was being made redundant and that there was no possibility of being re-deployed.

Explaining the rationale behind the redundancy, the firm told the WRC hearing that the company’s structure needed to be flexible and the role the complainant had was redundant because it could be absorbed into the responsibilities of his line manager.

In her findings, Daly found that no evidence had been put before her which showed that a redundancy situation existed and no reasons been given as to why the CEO decided that the man’s position should be made redundant.

Daly stated that the complaint of unfair dismissal is well founded and ordered the firm to pay the man €35,000.

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