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Dublin: 10°C Sunday 16 May 2021

Mechanic who left job after employer implied he was a thief awarded €22k

An Employment Appeals Tribunal said it was reasonable for him to quit his job given the circumstances.

Image: Shutterstock/kurhan

A TIPPERARY MECHANIC has been awarded €22,000 for being unfairly dismissed.

He was awarded the money by the Employment Appeals Tribunal which said his situation was one of constructive dismissal, where he couldn’t continue his employment due to the unreasonable conduct of his employer.

The complainant, Edward Fahy, left his job after his employer, Denis Kinane Motors Ltd, accused him of stealing a piece of equipment in 2014.

The tribunal felt that the employer’s failure to investigate or discuss the missing equipment with the complainant was fatal to their case.

How did this come about?

The complainant told the tribunal it was hard to satisfy of the owner of the respondent company, and that, speaking generally, he had found it difficult to work for him.

The managing director (MD) said that on 19 July 2014 the complainant had shown him a voltage meter, used for checking amps on cars. The meter was in the boot of the employee’s own car, it was claimed.

The MD did not say anything to his employee at that stage, but he later told the tribunal that he thought that the voltage meter belonged to him and that he had hoped the complainant would return it to him. (Specifically, he said he thought it was a meter he had purchased in Thurles for €25).

The complainant told the tribunal he had never shown his boss a meter of the type described.

On 20 August the complainant was replacing a car bulb in the course of his work when it accidentally fell into the headlamp. He told the tribunal that when the MD discovered this, he repeatedly told the complainant that he was making the same mistake over and over again and that he was a “waste of space”.

The employee said he decided he could “not take it anymore” and walked out. The complainant’s colleagues gave evidence that they expected him to come back, as he had left before but always returned.

The complainant later received a call from the MD asking him to sign a statement that he was leaving the company, and to return his overalls and the voltage meter that his boss alleged he had stolen.

He contended, in response, that he had not stolen a meter. He said that he used his own meter (of a different type to the one described) to perform his duties.

On 22 August the complainant went back to the garage to resolve the matter and collect his tool box. He told the tribunal that his boss had called him a thief on that occasion.

The complainant added that the MD asked him to sign a piece of paper confirming he was quitting, and that he did so because of his stressed state.

In his testimony to the tribunal, the MD denied he had told the complainant he was a waste of space – but admitted to giving out to him. He also denied calling the complainant a thief.

In August 2014, the tribunal heard, the MD told the complainant that he would pay his outstanding wages and holiday pay when the meter was returned. The employee did not receive the funds until April 2015.

Tribunal ruling

The tribunal felt that the respondent had relied on an unsubstantiated allegation of the unlawful taking of the meter. It said it was clear that the meter became the deciding issue as to whether the complainant would continue working for the company.

The tribunal argued that whether or not the MD used the word ‘thief’, the claim that complainant had taken the meter implied it.

In conclusion, it was found it was reasonable for the complainant to terminate his employment and awarded him €22,000.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal is an independent body which adjudicates workplace complaints.

Read: Hair salon to pay former worker €10,000 for dismissing her while pregnant

Read: Teenage boy awarded €5,500 after management stops him bringing assistance dog to school

About the author:

Elizabeth O'Malley

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