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Florist driver awarded €20,000 for dismissal after 'impossible' requests and hours

The WRC said that there was “no doubt that the driver was under immense pressure to get through his deliveries each day”.

shutterstock_318211301 Source: Shutterstock/Daria_Cherry

A FLORIST SHOP driver has been awarded €20,000 for being dismissed after expressing concern over the amount of bouquets that needed to be delivered on Mother’s Day.

The complainant was engaged as a van driver with a parent company of at least two retail florist shops in Cork and Dublin, and told the Workplace Relations Commission that he often worked up to 50 hours a week in order that all deliveries would be made.

He stated that he might sometimes be contacted after he got home in the evenings to get back out and re-deliver flowers where someone who had not been at home earlier had rung in looking for the delivery.

He said that Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day were particularly challenging.

On Mother’s Day last year, 24 March, the complainant started extra early. While still delivering his morning round of deliveries he was called back into the shop to pick up another 30 bouquets just prepared.

When back at the base, he said he pointed out the difficulty with being expected to deliver 50 or 60 bouquets in the remaining hours of the working day. The complainant raised the inappropriateness and impossibility of the expectation.

The complainant says he was dismissed on the spot, relieved of his van and was forced to take a taxi home.

Reaction

The branch manager sent the complainant a note saying that he had been let go due to the unavailability of work. But after this, the company’s general manager subsequently sent an email to the complainant setting out a disciplinary history going back a year before the dismissal, recorded as 26 March.

Management appeared to be at cross purposes. The complainant had never seen any such previous allegations and never received the verbal warnings described therein.

In an email dated 2 April, the complainant had requested the reasons for his dismissal, but says he was a stranger to the matters that were set out in reply and prepared by the general manager.

In correspondence with the general manager, the complainant categorically refuted all the allegations made and the veracity of the suggestion that he had a history of needing to be disciplined within the workplace.

Dismissed and rehired

In May that year, the company asked the driver to return to the company, in what the WRC called “a surprising turn of events”.

The WRC continued:

“This may or may not have been in recognition of some fault on their part or to somehow persuade the complainant not to bring this matter before the WRC. Equally it may have had something to do with the respondent not being able to recruit another driver.

The reason for the change of heart has not been disclosed and I must therefore operate on the premise that there was a continuity of service and that any dismissal which took place in March was invalidated.

The driver then worked with the company for another three months.

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During that period there appears to have been “an uneasy truce”, as the WRC called it, though the issue of bringing the employer before the WRC “was never far from the surface”.

On 19 August 2017, the driver was taken aside by the shop manager and was once again dismissed. 

The van driver subsequently received a letter which attempted to justify the dismissal.

The letter purports to outline a number of incidents which had occurred in July and August and which had cumulatively given rise to the dismissal. However, the driver had not been disciplined in respect of these alleged instances nor were there any warnings placed on his file such that would allow for an instant dismissal in the manner alleged.

Decision

In its decision, the WRC said that “given the perishable nature of flowers… there can be no doubt that the complainant was under immense pressure to get through his deliveries each day”.

“As no one from the company was available to rebut the complainant’s sworn testimony and/or provide paperwork which documents any disciplinary history – including attendances at meetings, warnings, sanctions imposed etc – I find it difficult not to accept the complainant’s evidence in its entirety,” the final decision said.

I find the complainant to have been unfairly dismissed by the respondent and taking into account the lack of evidence regarding mitigation and the passage of time, I award a sum of compensation in the amount of €20,000.

The WRC also awarded the driver €400 over his claim about the hours worked per week, and €250 over the lack of provision of the terms and conditions of his employment.

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