Tribunal upholds man's dismissal for 'anonymously' sending anti-English tirade to CEO of US parent company

by Gordon Deegan

A sales professional at a multi-national company based here has been sacked after sending to its US based chief executive an anti-English YouTube video documenting the events the led to partition In Ireland almost 100 years ago.

In the case, the man - who was with the cleaning products wholesaler for 18 years - was sacked for gross misconduct in May of this year.

The man was sacked after the firm identified him as the sender of the material after a pain-staking investigation requiring the employment of outside forensic IT experts based in the UK.

In the case, the employee sent the offending email on February 1st last in the name of one of the firm’s pension trustees to the CEO of the firm’s US parent company.

In the email, the worker complained “in crude form of the UK management of its Irish operations, with strong Irish nationalist undertones”.

The email also included a link to a YouTube video entitled ‘Why Ireland split into the Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland and subtitled “A brief overview of the history of Ireland and the events that led to the political division of the island.”.

In sending the email, the worker went to great lengths to shield his identify by using an anonymous online email facility, which allows users to insert sender identities other than themselves, and send those mails to other parties.

The man sued for unfair dismissal at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

However, in upholding the company’s decision to dismiss the man, WRC Adjudication Officer, Stephen Bonnlander said that he was satisfied that “the incriminating email itself is indeed offensive and intimidatory and that it caused the respondent to lose trust in the complainant”.

Mr Bonnlander found that the firm was within its rights to sack the worker for gross misconduct.

"The facts which the forensic IT specialists were able to establish with certainty and which are set out in their report are much stronger in terms of pointing to the complainant’s culpability than the complainant’s vague and generalised denials are in rebutting it".

The worker strenuously denied sending the email and youtube video link requiring the firm to call in outside IT forensic experts.

The employee handed over his laptop and an examination of the laptop an investigation by them found it highly likely that the worker sent on the email.

The investigators found that the laptop’s Internet search history shows searches for information in Irish-UK history, including maps, carried out on between 22:18pm and 22:21pm on February 1st 2018 culminating in the user accessing the YouTube video.

The email was sent at 23.45pm on February 1st 2018. The investigators also found that a PDF file of the altered PowerPoint presentation sent by the worker originated on his laptop and was created half an hour before the email was sent.

The investigators also found that the worker searched “send anonymous email” at 22:34pm on February 1st and “send anonymous email with attachment” on February 1st 2018.

One of the worker’s bosses told the WRC that the dismissal for gross misconduct was primarily for the serious breach of trust which had occurred between the parties, although the inappropriate use of the company’s laptop and the “intimidating content” of the email were also factors.

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