Motor dealer made illegal deductions from worker’s pay over crash

Damage to car docked from wages amounted to a quarter of net pay each month

A motor dealer has been ordered to pay a worker nearly €4,000 in compensation for making illegal pay deductions over an accident involving a customer’s car and for failing to provide a contract of employment.

Ara Azady took four complaints against Colm Quinn Ltd of Glasson Road, Athlone, Co Westmeath, under the Payment of Wages Act, and a fifth under the Terms of Employment Act.

The commission was told Mr Azady worked full-time for the company, earning €10.50 an hour for a 38-hour working week between July 2020 and March 2021.

Mr Azady gave evidence that he went to pick up a customer's car on October 8th, 2020, from the company's Drogheda branch to bring it to Athlone. But he said there was an accident at the Drogheda garage which caused damage to the vehicle – with the repair cost estimated at €1,595.83 by his employer.

From December 2020 to February 2021, the company docked his wages by €400 a month before deducting a final €395.83 in March 2021, he told the commission.

Mr Azady’s solicitor argued none of the four deductions were agreed or communicated to his client, in breach of section five of the Terms of Employment Act – and that they were “excessive” as they amounted to about a quarter of his net pay.

It was Colm Quinn Ltd’s position that Mr Azady had “verbally agreed to make deductions from his wages to pay for the damage caused to the car by the accident that he had”.

The company acknowledged Mr Azady had not received a written statement of his terms and conditions of employment but argued that he “started soon after the pandemic began” and “never came looking for a contract”.

The member of staff who normally looked after such matters was on leave at the time, the commission was told.

In a decision published on Tuesday, adjudicating officer Breiffni O'Neill found he could not rule on the December payslip because it had arrived with Mr Azady on the 20th of that month – outside the six-month window for the complaint, which was submitted to the Workplace Relations Commission on June 28th 2020.

But he found there were breaches under the three other Payment of Wages Act complaints.

Mr O’Neill ruled further that Colm Quinn Ltd was in breach of the Terms of Employment Act for failing to provide a written statement of the terms and conditions of Mr Azady’s employment.

He awarded the maximum allowed under the Act – four weeks’ pay, or €1,529.47 – to Mr Azady on top of €2,391.66 for the three unlawful deductions, a total of €3,921.13.