By Gordon Deegan
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has ruled that Applus, the national car test (NCT) firm, was right to sack a test centre administrator who is alleged to have told a customer ‘f**k off'.
The man sued for unfair dismissal at the WRC, but WRC Adjudication Officer, Kevin Baneham concluded that the man's employer, Applus Car Testing Service Ltd had reasonable basis to find that bad language was used by the worker during the incident on June 26, 2016.
In his findings, Mr Baneham found that the man's unfair dismissal complaint against his former employer "is not well founded".
He said: “There can be little doubt that using bad language at a customer is grounds for a gross misconduct dismissal in the context of a customer service role where customers are complying with a statutory obligation in submitting their vehicles to verify they are roadworthy.”
The worker - who was employed at NCT centres since 2008 - denied using bad language to the customer and asserted that the dismissal was unfair.
The man was sacked by Applus in October 2016 and the grounds of dismissal were the man’s “unacceptable, unprofessional and inappropriate behaviour to the said customer on the 26th June 2016. It is clear from the evidence submitted that foul language was used on the day and your behaviour was aggressive and threatening”.
The man was sacked on foot on a customer complaint lodged on July 15, 2016 and an eye-witness statement from a work colleague on the incident.
In his findings, Mr Baneham stated that “it is striking that the customer complaint refers to the complainant’s rude behaviour and his sarcasm, but makes no reference to being told to “f*** off”.
The allegation relating to the contentious expletive is contained in the colleague’s eye-witness statement, where she said that the customer was walking away from her colleague towards the waiting area when her colleague told the customer to f**k off.
The female worker said that she told the customer to ignore her colleague and not pay him any attention.
In cross-examination of the worker bringing the unfair dismissal action, it was put to him that the test centre manager spoke with the customer concerned who confirmed that bad language was used.
In his version of the events of the day, the ex-worker said he advised the customer to go to the waiting area and speak with the inspector.
The ex-worker claimed that the customer was shouting and using offensive language at him. He sought to raise this with the team leader, but could not find him.
The ex-worker said that he did not use bad language and nor was he aggressive.
The man said that he worked this particular NCT centre for seven years and worked well with people at six or seven test centres.
The ex-worker stated that there were other examples where employees used bad language but were not fired.
He said that people were always happy to work with him and that he never had an issue with clients.
He said that bad language was often used by customers when their cars failed, including this customer.
The man told the WRC hearing that his NCT salary was €28,500 a year and his new job is cleaning where he is earning €100 per week for the part-time casual work.
The worker told the hearing that there was no statement from the customer regarding the use of bad language and as there no customer statement to this effect, there was no case.
At the time of the WRC hearing, the man was on Jobseekers Benefit.