The Respondent invited the security guard to a meeting at which they put the substance of the complaint to him. He confirmed the incident but stated that the two employees had a good relationship and that it was a friendly incident. The Respondent found that the actions of the security guard “breached the fundamental trust necessary to employ him as a security guard” and decided that dismissal was the only option in all the circumstances.
The Labour Court found that the incident represented the most serious infringement of the employee’s right to bodily integrity. Although the Respondent's failure to give the security guard a copy of the written complaint at the investigation stage amounted to a flaw in the procedure, the substance of the complaint had been put to the security guard and he was aware at all times of its details. As such, the Labour Court found that the procedures were not fatal and the dismissal was not unfair.
Fair procedures are vital in the investigation process. Most fundamental to these procedures are the rules of natural justice, including an employee having the right to know the specific allegations under investigation, the right to reply, the right to a fair and impartial decision maker and the right to representation. Employers have obligations to both the accused and the accuser to remain impartial and fair. It is vital that everyone knows the process and that an employer acts on the complaint as soon as it is raised, as evidenced in the Pinnacle Security case.
However, employers are all too aware of the difficulties and complexities that can still arise with workplace investigations. It is important that you protect your business interests while ensuring that you are acting in line with HR best practice and in compliance with the law. Many HR professionals will know the time and effort which is required when conducting a workplace investigation. Despite these efforts, HR professionals frequently find they are the ones under scrutiny when employees challenge the manner in which an investigation was conducted, whether it be an investigation into a protected disclosure, a bullying and harassment complaint, or under a grievance or disciplinary policy.
At Ibec’s Employment Law Conference 2017, our conference will focus on the various difficulties that can arise for employers in workplace investigations. We will assess recent case law and provide practical advice as to how to best ensure that your investigations will withstand scrutiny before the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court. To ensure that you are well briefed, join us at our conference on 11 May 2017 in Croke Park.
Visit www.ibec.ie/EmployConf for full programme details and booking.
Gillian Verrecchia, Solicitor, Ibec Employment Law Services Unit
Wednesday, 19 April 2017