Luas driver sacked over ‘moonlighting’ as taxi-driver

Driver claims ‘tip-off’ was malicious, but WRC dismisses unfair dismissal case

Transdev pointed out that the driver’s contract of employment contains explicit exclusion of “moonlighting” work. File photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Transdev pointed out that the driver’s contract of employment contains explicit exclusion of “moonlighting” work. File photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

 

Luas operator, Transdev has sacked one of its drivers after finding that he was “moonlighting” as a taxi-driver in his wife’s licensed taxi.

In response to a tip-off over the driver’s “moonlighting”, Transdev hired a private investigator who placed the driver under surveillance over two evenings.

The private investigator observed the Luas employee accepting a number of fares and also hailed down the “taxi-driver” to become a passenger in his cab and paid a €5 fare.

After an internal investigation and disciplinary process, the Luas driver was sacked for gross misconduct after two internal appeals, including one to Transdev’s managing director, failed.

In dismissing the driver, Transdev found the “moonlighting” as gross misconduct as it viewed the additional demands placed on the driver’s time as a threat on his capacity to carry out his highly responsible role as Luas driver.

Transdev also pointed out that the driver’s contract of employment contains explicit exclusion of “moonlighting” work.

The company stated that the decision to dismiss was a proportionate sanction in the circumstances.

In response the Luas driver sued for unfair dismissal and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has found that the dismissal was fair, upholding Transdev’s decision.

As part of the Transdev investigation, the driver said that he didn’t know how many times he had driven his wife’s taxi.

He said: “It was really ad hoc, so I would just help her out. No set criteria, no set anything.”

He said he did not collect any fares, and that these would be forwarded to his wife later.

The Luas driver didn’t accept that his conduct was a potential challenge to his capacity to discharge his duties with Transdev in a safe manner.

However, the “whistle-blower” in the case had stated that the Luas driver “arrived on a regular basis (Friday and Saturday) at the taxi base where he swaps from his private car and into his wife’s taxi and works til 2-3am”.

The un-named Luas driver told the WRC that the dismissal was not proportionate and the actions of Transdev were unreasonable.

On the “tip-off” received by Transdev, the driver claimed that the complaint was “malicious” and possibly written by another Luas employee to cause him damage.

The driver stated that the level of knowledge of his movements would not be known to a person who had simply casually observed them and that the person making the complaint was aware of detail about the wife’s taxi business and other details suggesting that this was someone who knew the driver well and set out to cause him harm.

WRC Adjudication Officer, Pat Brady said that the manner in which the matter came to the employer’s attention “is suspicious indeed”.

Mr Brady said: “Ultimately, this does not matter. The respondent has a duty to apply its own rules once any alleged breach of them comes to its attention and regardless of the motives of any person doing so.”

The driver can appeal the decision to the Labour Court. Transdev on Monday declined to comment on the WRC ruling.