Posted: March 17th, 2022
The dismissal of a bus driver, who had his employment terminated when it was discovered that he left his bus and passengers unattended in order to cut away protruding and obstructive limbs of a tree, was awarded €15,800 in unfair dismissal compensation.
Simon Logue, a bus driver working for Boyce Coach Travel based in Ramelton Co Donegal was, according to the ruling of the Workplace Relations Commission unfairly dismissed due to the incident in question. Additionally, the result of the WRC hearing stated that it was “extraordinary” that there had been an attempt to justify terminating the employment of an individual that was attempting to safeguard their employer’s property from potential damage.
The hearing was informed that Boyce Coach Travel was involved in transporting physically challenged adults to day services in Co Donegal, thanks to Local Link SITT bus service contract. Mr Logue told the hearing that, while working on that contract, he was driving in and out of the entrance to a new client’s house in August 2019 and found that it was particularly difficult due to the position of overgrown trees.
In order to remedy this issue, Mr Logue made the company aware of it. He was, in turn, informed that he would have to obtain permission from the owner to cut the tree back. Mr Logue went on to say that he was able to secure permission from the landowner who was the mother of the service user, to remove some branches. With this place, later that same day, the driver said he parked the bus and removed the key from the ignition so he could take away certain parts of the tree.
In describing what had taken place, Mr Logue said he was no more than 10 feet away from the bus and could see the two passengers from his vantage point. In addition to this the two passengers were accompanied by a travel escort for the length of time that he was cutting branches.
However, afterwards it came to light that the family of the service user had submitted a complaint to the HSE and had asked that their son be given a dedicated taxi by SITT. Mr Logue told the tribunal that, once he submitted a report in relation to the incident, his employment was terminated by the company’s owner, Peter Boyce, on November 20, 2019. During the meeting where he was dismissed, Mr Logue was shown a letter from SITT which accused him of interfering with property without adequate permission. The hearing was told that SITT had requested that Mr Logue be removed from his employment with Boyce Coach Travel as quickly as possible.
Mr Logue attempted to defend himself and requested that his employer outline to SITT that he had done nothing wrong as he had permission to remove the branches from the property owner. However, Mr Boyce said that he was not in a position to do so. He informed Mr Logue that he had no alternative work available for him so he had to terminate his employment.
Following the completion of his final run on November 22, 2019, Mr Logue said he again attempted to voice his concerns that there had been no proper investigation into the complaint which led to his termination.
Defending the decision that was taken to remove Logue from his position, Boyce Coach Travel claimed SITT had been sent a complaint which indicated that the driver and the travel escort had left a service user unattended on the bus alone for a period of around ten minutes.
The WRC, in upholding Mr Logue’s claim for unfair dismissal, said it was obvious that he had not been made aware in writing in relation to a disciplinary process and not been given any opportunity to explain his version of events. WRC adjudicator Shay Henry commented that it was noteworthy that Boyce Travel had made no attempt to contact the woman who had provided permission for the obstructive branches to be removed.
He also commented that it was also difficult to see how SITT had come to the conclusion that the travel escort should be punished with a three-day suspension while it requested the termination of the bus driver. Mr Henry said he believed that Mr Logue had obtained adequate permission to remove the tree as the testimony he provided was “clear, consistent and persuasive.” He added that he felt it was also clear that Mr Logue was attempting to protect the company’s property by seeking to remove the tree branches.
In awarding Mr Logue €15,600 unfair dismissal compensation, the equivalent of one year’s salary in his bus driving role, the WRC said it believed Mr Logue had been completing the task due to health and safety considerations and this should have not led to any disciplinary issue. It referred to the move to dismiss him from his position as disproportionate.
Categories: Work Injury Claim