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Unfair Dismissal Claim Resolved by Workplace Relations Commission

A man who was dismissed after allegedly making insulting comments to a female employee has been awarded €15,000 in settlement of his unfair dismissal claim.

The man had been employed by the Boyne Valley Group at its distribution centre in Drogheda, County Louth since 2008 – first as a machine operator and then as a supervisor. In February 2015, he allegedly made insulting comments to a female employee about her appearance in earshot of her colleagues.

The female employee made a formal written complaint about her supervisor to the distribution centre manager, who subsequently held a formal meeting with her and initiated an investigation into her claims. Witnesses, who had heard the comments being made, were interviewed during the investigation.

In May 2015, the man was dismissed by the Boyne Valley Group for alleged gross misconduct. The company claimed he had made inappropriate comments on more than one occasion, and appeared to have singled her out for public humiliation. His actions, the company claimed, were in breach of their policies on bullying and harassment.

The man appealed the decision and his unfair dismissal claim was heard recently by the Workplace Relations Commission. At the hearing, the man admitted he had made comments about the young woman´s appearance, and he accepted some people might find the comments insulting. He also told the Commission he had tried to apologise, but the female employee had declined to accept his apology.

The way in which the investigation into the woman´s allegation had been conducted was explained to the Commission, which agreed it had been fair. However, the Chair of the Commission disputed the company´s claim the decision to dismiss the former supervisor was “within the band of reasonableness” and said his dismissal was a disproportionate response to the allegations.

Awarding the man €15,000 in settlement of his unfair dismissal claim, the Chair if the Commission added that, although the comments may have been unwelcome to the female employee in question, the matter should have been dealt – at least initially – in a more low-key manner.