Charity acted reasonably when sacking CEO for bullying female colleague – WRC

Man was sacked for gross misconduct after an investigation upheld 14 of 17 complaints

Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has found that a registered charity acted reasonably when dismissing its chief executive officer after finding he bullied and harassed a female colleague.

The man was sacked on August 30th, 2017 for gross misconduct after an investigation upheld 14 of 17 complaints made against the chief executive by the female colleague.

The man sued for unfair dismissal and brought a case to the WRC. No parties are named in the ruling.

However, in the ruling, WRC adjudication officer, Andrew Heavey found that the decision to dismiss the complainant for gross misconduct “was within the range of reasonable responses of a reasonable employer”.

In its argument to the WRC, the charity contended that the complainant was not unfairly dismissed.

It stated that there were a number of complaints made against the CEO in September 2016 by a colleague and he was issued with a written warning on October 17th, 2016 following an internal disciplinary process.

The CEO appealed and an external consultant was appointed to ensure transparency and fairness.

The charity stated that the investigation carried out by the external consultant upheld 14 of 17 complaints made against the CEO.

The charity stated that its subsequent decision to dismiss the former CEO for gross misconduct “was proportionate and reasonable.”

The charity confirmed that it had considered alternative sanctions but as the former CEO had no insight into his behaviour, it took the decision to dismiss him from the organisation.

The charity stated that the former CEO was provided with the opportunity to appeal the dismissal but did not do so.

In response, the former CEO told the WRC that his dismissal was “excessive and disproportionate” on the basis that his behaviour had not met the definition of bullying as his actions were not deliberate or a pre-determined course of action.

In his findings, Mr Heavey said that the former CEO “accepted at the adjudication hearing that he had behaved in the manner described but was unaware at the time of the impact his behaviour was having on his colleague”.

Mr Heavey said that the former CEO “suffered/suffers from depression and had experienced personal tragedy and that the complainant’s colleague had also experienced the same personal tragedy in her life”.

Mr Heavey also reported that prior to the events that led to the complaints, the former CEO and his colleague had worked closely together and had enjoyed a positive working relationship.

The former CEO confirmed that the relationship with his colleague had deteriorated and his behaviour and attitude towards her had also changed.

The former CEO subsequently expressed a desire to resolve issues with his colleague, but mediation was deemed to be inappropriate given the nature of the complaints and the fraught personal relationship between the complainant and his colleague at that time.