Man wins €889 after boss quizzes him at sea over missing money

Man was told he would not be able to swim to shore during questioning on speedboat

A man who resigned from his job under duress, after being brought out to sea in a speedboat by his boss and aggressively questioned, has been awarded €889. File photograph: iStock

A man who resigned from his job under duress, after being brought out to sea in a speedboat by his boss and aggressively questioned, has been awarded €889. File photograph: iStock

 

A man who resigned from his job under duress, after being brought out to sea in a speedboat by his boss and aggressively questioned about missing money, has been awarded €889 over his unfair dismissal.

The man said he was brought more than 3km from the shore and told he would not be able to swim back as the water was too cold, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) heard.

The claimant, who was questioned about €10,000 missing from the business, which operates amusement arcades, said he was scared and cold during the questioning, which continued for about an hour before the boat was untied from a buoy and returned to a harbour.

He said he was questioned on the boat by the company director, a line manager and a business associate of the director. He said all three asked him about stealing money, and that the director was aggressive in his language.

The WRC was told the man was later made to sign a resignation letter that had been prepared for him. The letter, dated April 27th, 2017, and prepared by the firm’s human resources manager, stated: “I refer to our conversation this morning and wish to confirm my decision to resign with immediate effect.”

The man’s unfair dismissal claim was upheld and he was awarded €889. The award was low as the man received disability payments after resigning and, as he was unavailable for work, was deemed not to have suffered a financial loss.

WRC adjudication officer Joe Donnelly said of the speedboat incident: “It is clear that the purpose of the exercise was to frighten the complainant and this had been successfully achieved. The further purpose would appear to have been to get the complainant to resign.”

Invitation to staff

The company director told the WRC that he had invited staff out on his boat to prepare for a new season but only two employees came. He said the boat went out to a marker buoy and then returned slowly to the harbour as there was a problem with the engine. They then returned to the workplace, he said.

The director said he then held an informal meeting with the claimant regarding concerns that had arisen in relation to customer numbers using the facility for which he was responsible and to see if he could help identify reasons for the decline. He said the worker refused to answer questions and stated that if he was not trusted, he would resign. The director said he asked the HR manager to join the meeting and again the worker repeated his wish to resign.

However, Mr Donnelly said that the director’s story of inviting the worker to participate in a boat trip, decided upon at short notice because it was a nice morning, “simply does not ring true”.

“On the balance of probabilities, the resignation of the complainant was brought about by duress due to the actions of the respondent,” he said, adding that the course of action “was so unreasonable as to justify the complainant terminating his employment”.