Alleged unfair dismissal case opens before employment tribunal

Employee of national car testing service Applus alleges colleagues made ‘monkey noises’

Davitt House, where the employment appeal opened today. Photograph: The Irish Times

Davitt House, where the employment appeal opened today. Photograph: The Irish Times

Tue, Jan 14, 2014, 13:36

A case in which an employee of the national car testing service Applus alleges he and others were racially abused has opened at the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Brian Karra of Blainroe Upper, Wicklow, has alleged colleagues at the Deansgrange testing centre in south Dublin where he worked as a vehicle inspector, made “monkey noises”.

He also alleged that on one occasion in May 2012 he overheard colleagues in the canteen make reference to “niggers”.

Mr Karra complained to the company about the alleged abusive remarks in the canteen and an inquiry was held by the company.

However the company investigation in which 12 people were interviewed in relation to the incident, determined the word used was “knacker” and not “nigger”.

Human resources manager with Applus Elaine Bird told the tribunal that no disciplinary action was taken against the employee whom it was found had used the word knacker.

This was because it was found he had not aimed the remark at Mr Karra, and had used it inadvertently in relation to an anecdote concerning children kicking dustbins outside his house.

Ms Bird told the tribunal a joint statement to this effect was signed by the other 11 witnesses who were partof the conversation in the canteen on the day.

She said Mr Karra had argued he did not accept this group approach and would have preferred individual statements. She said Mr Karra wrote individually to the other witnesses warning of legal action and accusing one employee of telling lies.

Ms Bird told the tribunal the company had been concerned when Mr Kara said he had made a complaint to the Garda.

“For an individual to refer a mater to the gardaí was something the company found quite worrying at the time,” she said.

Ms Bird told the tribunal she had drawn Mr Karra’s attention to the fact that this was the second complaint he had made to the company, the first being made in 2006 when he worked in the Arklow testing centre.

While the first complaint was not one of allegations of radial abuse, she said the company felt there may be more complaints from Mr Karra in the future, because he was clearly not happy in his place of work.

She said she explained to him the company took the issue of malicious complaints very seriously.

She also said a number of other people at the Deansgrange testing centre complained they found working with Mr Karra was intimidating as they were worried he may make complaints about them. She said the atmosphere in the testing centre was one of tension and stress.

She said Mr Karra subsequently absented himself from work claiming he was on sick leave, and while the tribunal heard he claimed this leave was certified, Ms Bird said the company was not in receipt of medical certificates for all of the absences, particularly in relation to his failure to attend meetings.

Mr Karra was dismissed by letter in December 2013, which the company said was related to his ongoing harassment of fellow workers.

The case in which Mr Karra is claiming he was unfairly dismissed is continuing.