Luas driver sacked over alcohol must be reinstated, says WRC

Workplace Relations Commission says inquiry into man’s weekend drinking flawed

Luas: As a result of failing alcohol  tests, the worker was accused of contravening the company’s drugs and alcohol policy. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Luas: As a result of failing alcohol tests, the worker was accused of contravening the company’s drugs and alcohol policy. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has ordered that a Luas driver sacked for being over the alcohol limit at a tram depot be reinstated to his job.

A WRC report on the man’s unfair dismissal case found the employer’s investigation and disciplinary process was so flawed that it prejudiced him and was in breach of the principles of natural justice.

In the case, the unnamed driver (57) said he was embarrassed after admitting he was drinking all weekend before going to the Red Cow Luas depot on a Monday morning last June.

The man said he was not a big drinker and was at the depot to collect personal items rather than to drive a tram. He told his team leader that he had four glasses of wine the previous evening.

The team leader said the man was there to work and detected a smell of alcohol from him. He told him that he would have to be tested for alcohol and the man failed two tests.

As a result of failing the tests on June 15th last at the Red Cow Luas depot, the worker was accused of contravening the company’s drugs and alcohol policy. He was subsequently sacked.

Good reputation

At the hearing, the man said he had worked on the Luas for 13 years and had a good reputation and working relationship with staff and management. He said he had not found a job since and was not hopeful of doing so because of his age.

Referring to the admission that the driver had consumed four glasses of wine the night before reporting for duty, WRC adjudication officer Niamh O’Carroll Kelly said the man was at no point asked “how large the glasses of wine were”.

“I would have expected that to be established prior to brandishing the complainant a liar.”

Ms O’Carroll Kelly said the worker was adamant his reason for being at the depot was to collect his identity documentation rather than for work.

She said matters in his favour included that he was not wearing his uniform; did not have a uniform in his locker; did not have his tram key; and never made any attempt to make his way up to the control room to sign on.

Job history

Ms O’Carroll Kelly said the facts against the driver were that he often came to work in a track suit; was present at the exact time he would have been had he been coming to work and he had not called in to say he would not be attending.

In her ruling, Ms O’Carroll Kelly concluded that “on the balance of probabilities, I prefer the complainant’s evidence”. He had no history of breaching the drugs and alcohol policy in his 13 years with the company, she said.

“His explanation that he needed to get his identification documents out of his locker so that he could withdraw money from the bank is a creditable one. Furthermore, it is conceded that he needs glasses for work and that he didn’t have them on that date.”

Ms O’Carroll Kelly ruled that the man should be re-engaged into the same role with the same terms and conditions as before his dismissal.