Smurfit Kappa unfairly dismissed worker who allegedly struck colleague

No compensation for dismissed man despite fairness test not being met – Labour Court

Smurfit Kappa is one of the largest suppliers of paper-based products in the world. Photograph: iStock

Smurfit Kappa is one of the largest suppliers of paper-based products in the world. Photograph: iStock

 

An Irish arm of Smurfit Kappa unfairly dismissed a worker after he allegedly struck a colleague across the face with an iron implement.

The Labour Court which has found that Smurfit Kappa Ireland Ltd’s process when dismissing Nicholas Folan for gross misconduct in August 2018 was “fatally flawed”.

Deputy chairman of the Labour Court Tom Geraghty said the court was surprised that a large employer such as Smurfit Kappa “should be so lacking in its procedures” and would suggest to the company “that they might seek to rectify this deficiency to avoid such observations arising in any possible future case”.

However, Mr Geraghty has determined that the appropriate compensation for Mr Folan is “nil” after finding that Mr Folan contributed 100 per cent to his own dismissal.

Mr Geraghty concluded that what is uncontested is that Mr Folan “struck a colleague in the face with an iron implement and drew blood” at the workplace on July 4th, 2018.

Mr Geraghty said the only circumstance in which this could be deemed to be acceptable would be in self-defence.

He said that in the absence of anything other than an assertion of self-defence, which Mr Folan did not support by giving evidence under oath, the Labour Court had to conclude that Mr Folan is ultimately responsible for his own dismissal.

Mr Geraghty said what was not in dispute was that the Mr Folan struck a colleague in the face using an iron bar, described by Mr Folan as an iron ruler.

“This is a weighty instrument. As a result of the assault, the victim suffered a significant facial laceration and was certified as unfit for work,” said Mr Geraghty.

Smurfit Kappa is one of the largest suppliers of paper-based products in the world, employs 46,000 globally and last year recorded revenues of €8.5 billion.

In the ruling, Mr Geraghty found that the process through which it was determined that Mr Folan should be dismissed was “fatally flawed and there can be no doubt that the dismissal does not meet the tests for fairness”.

Inconceivable

Mr Geraghty said that notwithstanding the undeniable and significant flaws in the process used, “it is inconceivable that the court would direct an employer to reinstate or re-engage an employee who has admitted to striking a colleague in the face, causing injury, with an iron implement, in circumstances where the only witness does not corroborate a claim of self-defence”.

Mr Geraghty said Smurfit Kappa has a duty of care to all of its employees and it is difficult to see how that duty could be met by allowing Mr Folan to return to work.

Mr Geraghty also rejected an application by Mr Folan’s representatives from Siptu that he not be named in the published Labour Court ruling. The deputy chairman said no special circumstances were put forward that would warrant the exercise of the court’s discretion in not naming Mr Folan.

The case came before the Labour Court after Mr Folan appealed a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ruling that found that he was not unfairly dismissed.