The firm that operates the National Car Test (NCT) hired a private investigator to spy on a tester it suspected of breaching its code of integrity.
Philip Billingsley was subsequently sacked and the Employment Appeals Tribunal has now dismissed Mr Billingsley’s claim for unfair dismissal.
It found the dismissal was fair after concluding that Mr Billingsley used one car to pass another car’s test.
Mr Billingsley was dismissed after Applus Car Testing Service Ltd hired a private investigator to place Mr Billingsley’s NCT centre and Mr Billingsley under surveillance while at work over two days in April 2012.
Applus hired the private investigator after the firm’s training and standards manager received an anonymous call naming Mr Billingsley as the culprit in relation to possible misconduct.
In June 2012, Applus wrote to Mr Billingsley concerning allegations and an investigation meeting was held on June 18 where a list with the details of three vehicles, a copy of photographs of the vehicles and three vehicle inspection reports were presented. The following month Mr Billingsley was suspended with pay.
Two conference calls took place in August 2012 at the request of Mr Billingsley’s solicitor. However, in September 2012, Mr Billingsley was dismissed on the recommendation that he be sacked on the grounds of driving of vehicles to the centre that were not his own; falsifying test results and carrying out work practices that are untruthful/ unethical.
Applus’s regional manager for the north west told the tribunal, held over five days in Letterkenny, that Mr Billingsley was a good employee and agreed he was a suitable candidate for possible promotion in January 2012.
However, the regional manager said he recommended Mr Billingsley be dismissed on the belief he had breached the company’s code of integrity. The regional manager told the hearing that as Mr Billingsley was unable or unwilling to explain the allegations against him he felt the sanction should be dismissal.
Mr Billingsley told the tribunal family difficulties and an ensuing dispute resulted in a relative making false allegations about him to Applus.
The records that Mr Billingsley gave detailed evidence refuting the allegations except one, which is that he drove a car that was not his to the test centre for a test. He said that this was common practise and one which was known by Mr Billingsley’s supervisor.
Mr Billingsley lodged a grievance on the July 16, 2012 regarding the way he was being treated.
The tribunal stated that it is not credible to say, in light of what was put before him, that he did not understand the nature of the allegation being made against him.
It found that Applus’s view, in the absence of an explanation or contradiction by Mr Billingsley, that he had used one car to pass another car’s test was reasonable, and the dismissal that resulted from this finding is fair.
A spokeswoman for Applus declined to comment.
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