An employee has been awarded €15,000 following dismissal for allegedly striking two residents of a residential care facility for the elderly. The incident was allegedly witnessed by a colleague who reported it to the employee’s manager. The employee was immediately placed on paid suspension pending investigation.
Both the investigation and disciplinary meetings were conducted by the employee’s manager and the operations manager. While the employee claimed not to remember striking the residents, the managers found that on the balance of probabilities the employee did do so. The managers concluded that they had no choice but to dismiss the employee in light of their duty of care to the residents. Prior to the disciplinary meeting a letter of dismissal had been prepared.
The employee alleged that she was not afforded fair procedures during the investigation and disciplinary meetings, and that the decision was reached in a flawed and unfair manner. She felt there was no point in availing of the internal appeals procedure.
The Tribunal held that fair procedures and natural justice had not been applied in the decision to dismiss the employee. The Tribunal found that the dismissal was presented to the employee as a fait accompli and that she was not given an opportunity to properly respond to the allegations made against her. In awarding her €15,000, the Tribunal stated that the award could have been higher had the employee made more of an effort to look for alternative employment.
This case highlights the importance of following fair procedures, particularly in circumstances where it is alleged that an employee may be guilty of gross misconduct. While not specifically addressed in this case, it is best practice that the investigation and disciplinary stages be separate and carried out by different individuals.