Sacked accountant unfairly dismissed over ‘pure evil’ email
Award of almost €40,000 after unjust dismissal in dispute with male colleague ‘Tony’
The woman was sacked in July 2017 for gross misconduct. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has found that a female accountant was unfairly dismissed by a global logistics firm after she told a male colleague in an email that he was “pure evil”.
In the email of June 12th, 2017, the woman also told the man, referred to as Tony (not his real name), that he was “shameless, arrogant and manipulative . . . not a healthy individual”.
She told Tony: “Sometimes I think you’re pure evil.”
The woman was sacked in July 2017 for gross misconduct after company investigators found the email to be “tantamount to bullying and harassment”.
However, WRC adjudication officer Catherine Byrne found that the woman was unfairly dismissed and ordered the firm to pay her €37,500.
Ms Byrne found that the dismissal “was disproportionate to the findings that her email was ‘very inappropriate’ ”.
‘A grave error’
The email came at the end of year of strained relations between the two work colleagues, marked by a complaint of sexual harassment by the man against the woman and a counter grievance by her.
Ms Byrne said upholding a complaint of sexual harassment was “a grave error” and resulted in a litany of misery for the woman, ultimately leading to her dismissal
Mr Byrne considered the complainant’s evidence at the hearing “compelling”.
The woman argued that “because of the year of bullying” by Tony and her employer, she felt compelled to send the email.
In that June 12th email, which prompted a complaint of bullying and harassment by Tony, the woman told him: “Last August you finally ended your silent treatment of me and when I tried to make things better between us, as seemingly that’s what you wanted too, you know what happened. What do you expect now? I’m terrified of you . . . I’d like to be on good terms with you, but I tried three times and you were nothing but awful to me, pretty much trying to ruin my life.”
The two colleagues were once lunch-time table tennis playing friends. But in October 2016 company investigators upheld a complaint of sexual harassment made by the man against the woman.
They made the finding after concluding that on two occasions, the woman approached Tony at his desk and her comments and Tony’s opinion that she invaded his personal space was interpreted by him as harassment.
Tony – who didn’t give evidence at the hearing – was off work on paid leave while the complaint was investigated.
Ms Byrne stated that the finding of sexual harassment was wrong and “followed from an unfair and flawed investigation”.
Ms Byrne found that the failure of the employer to appoint an independent investigator to examine Tony’s complaint of September 2016 was the starting point of the process that led to the woman being dismissed.
The woman told the WRC that Tony had made her life at work intolerable.
In response to the formal complaint, company investigators concluded that the complainant’s allegations were made maliciously because of Tony’s refusal to engage in mediation and the matter was then treated as a disciplinary offence.
The woman appealed that decision and, according to Ms Byrne’s report, the disciplinary investigation found that the woman did not make a complaint against Tony with malicious intent.
To bring matters to a close, she asked for a review of the outcome of the sexual harassment complaint made against her in 2016. But this request was refused and she sent the June 12th, 2017, email because they “pushed me close to the edge”.