Kepak hired firm to ‘spy’ on employee

Meat giant Kepak hired a surveillance firm to "spy" at weekends on a worker who had logged a number of grievances against the firm.

Kepak’s deployment of a special surveillance firm to monitor the activities of night-time cleaning supervisor Noel Farrell is confirmed by the Employment Appeals Tribunal which found Mr Farrell was unfairly dismissed. The company has now been ordered to pay him €25,000.

Mr Farrell was sacked by Kepak from its meat processing plant at Ballymahon, Co Longford, in January 2013, and the tribunal has found the dismissal to be “unreasonable and disproportionate”.

The tribunal report notes that the surveillance firm which “spied” on Mr Farrell on two successive Saturdays in October 2012 videoed him gardening for another man. A copy of this video evidence was made available to the tribunal with reports from the surveillance firm.

Mr Farrell said yesterday: “I am very pleased with the outcome of the tribunal. I was very badly treated by Kepak.”

The 54-year old said that he was “gobsmacked and shocked” to learn that he was being followed by a surveillance firm hired by Kepak. “I thought ‘what have I done wrong?’ I didn’t do anything wrong. They spent two days watching my every move.”

In July 2012, while trying to unblock a drain, Mr Farrell got his arm stuck in the drain for four hours.

The fire brigade and a doctor were called and the doctor administered an injection to calm Mr Farrell down and he was later brought to hospital after being freed from the drain.

On his return to work, Mr Farrell was assigned to other duties.

A meeting was held at Kepak in October 2012 to look into grievances Mr Farrell had against the firm since he returned to work.

Mr Farrell’s grievances investigated by Kepak included alleged failure to pay sick pay; duties assigned on return to work; and treatment by the firm following the drain incident.

The tribunal report relating to the CCTV recorded that Mr Farrell “saw nothing wrong in carrying out gardening duties at the weekends. He denied that he misled the respondent in relation to the nature and severity of his injuries”.

The firm didn’t find in Mr Farrell’s favour in any of the grievances and instead referred the matter to a disciplinary investigation in relation to statements made by Mr Farrell on his injuries and resulting restrictions.

Kepak subsequently dismissed him after alleging that Mr Farrell made a number of inconsistent statements in relation to his ongoing physical problems and to his fitness to work arising from the injuries sustained at Kepak’s plant.

The firm dismissed Mr Farrell after finding that his actions “irreparably damaged the trust and confidence so fundamental to an employment relationship”.

Since Mr Farrell’s dismissal by Kepak, he has been unable to get a job.

A spokeswoman for Kepak said yesterday: “The Kepak group does not have any comment to make on this case, at this juncture.”


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