The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) ordered a Northern firm to pay €40,000 in compensation to the former worker, who was fired after the surveillance highlighted discrepancies in his claims for expenses.
“Setting traps and ambushes for an employee is inappropriate behaviour for an employer,” stated the EAT.
The case arose as the result of an appeal by sales rep Dan Foran, of Coolcorcoran, Killarney, Co Kerry, against an earlier ruling by a rights commissioner on his dismissal by Galen, a pharmaceutical sales and marketing company based in Craigavon, Co Armagh.
The company told the tribunal it had installed tracking devices using a global positioning system because of disappointing sales figures in 2008.
It claimed the data collected from Mr Foran’s car had provided information which did not coincide with the account of his own whereabouts on three days in August 2008.
A Galen vice-president told the EAT that a decision to immediately dismiss Mr Foran was taken following a disciplinary hearing against him, as the company no longer had the necessary trust in him as an employee.
The vice-president acknowledged that none of the Galen sales force had been informed of the covert operation.
The company denied that Mr Foran’s sacking was an attempt to avoid a redundancy situation, even though it admitted that Mr Foran’s position was not replaced.
Mr Foran — who had worked with Galen since 2000 — admitted he had provided false information in expense claims for three days in August 2008.
The sales rep accepted that the manner in which he filled out such forms was “sloppy”.
In its ruling, the EAT said Galen had not adhered to the right of its staff to fair procedures and natural justice.
It found the company’s failure to notify staff of its surveillance operation could constitute a breach of trust on behalf of the employer.
The tribunal said Mr Foran’s expense forms were not filled out in a gratuitously false way as claimed by Galen.