Bullying allegation dismissal claim rejected

A man who claimed he was forced to resign from an Athlone firm because of bullying by his boss lost his appeal to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT ) when it was shown he had been given lesser duties at the same pay after having made an earlier complaint about stress.

Jason Nugent, Churchview, Ballymore had his case heard against Quality Additives Ltd, Moydrum, Athlone - a polymer colouring plant - at the EAT’s most recent sittting in Mullingar before Christmas.

Mr Nugent told the three-man tribunal he resigned on October 21, 2009 due to the stress he was under as a result of bullying by the managing director of the firm, which took the form of shouting and abusive behaviour.

He had started there in 2007 and accepted by and large that, despite some sporadic shouting by the boss, the first two years of his employment were uneventful and “it was not intolerable”.

However, he claimed this became “unbearable” in September 2009, and resulted in his attending his GP on a number of occasions, from whom certificates were submitted to the Tribunal declaring that Mr Nugent was unfit to attend work due to “work related stress”.

The managing director of Quality Additives gave evidence that Mr Nugent “was an excellent worker” whom he had promoted to a supervisory role with the company. He denied that he bullied him but admitted that he may have used strong language “on the odd occasion”.

He told the tribunal that because of the number of medical certificates received from Mr Nugent’s doctor, he met with him on October 5, 2009 and made a number of proposals which aimed at reducing the workload of the claimant on a temporary basis whilst maintaining his existing level of pay, and hoped “this would take any pressure off him”.

These proposals were put in writing in a letter given to Mr Nugent that same day, which he acknowledged he received, but denied that the proposals were discussed at the meeting on the morning of October 5.

Deciding in accordance with Section 1 of the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2007 which defines constructive dismissal, the Tribunal found: “The facts of this case do not amount to such a breach of contract to the extent that the employee was left with no reasonable alternative but to leave. Accordingly, the Tribunal considers in applying the case of reasonableness to the claimant’s resignation that he was not constructively dismissed”.

“The claimant did not act reasonably in resigning. The Tribunal notes that certain strong language was used, which is unacceptable, but this in itself was not sufficient reason for the claimant to resign.”

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