A bus company which falsely claimed that one of its drivers referred to a passenger using a racial slur has been ordered to pay nearly €9,000 for unfair dismissal.
Statements produced to the Workplace Relations Commission by Blue Line Coaches Ltd, trading as Nolan Coaches in the case accused the driver, Martin Cormican, of referring to an employee of a client company using a racial slur.
The WRC found that two statements making the accusation, denied by Mr Cormican, were "likely" prepared at least a year after his sacking in September 2020 to "add some documentary ballast".
The employment tribunal rejected the racial slur allegation as "false and unsubstantiated", upheld Mr Cormican's complaint against the firm under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977, and awarded him compensation.
The company’s case, set out by Emma Cassidy BL on the instructions of solicitor Setanta Landers, had been that Mr Cormican was "lawfully dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct", a position also rejected by the tribunal.
Mr Cormican was assigned to drive a shuttle bus service for staff of a client office and had called one of the passengers a "fat Chinese c***" on 13 September 2020, it was submitted.
The company’s general manager, Garrett O’Toole, said in his evidence that two statements from drivers attested to this.
Mr O’Toole said that Mr Cormican "admitted using this language" at a meeting the following day, was dismissed by a company director and did not appeal his sacking.
Mr Cormican said he had misread his work docket on 13 September, failed to realise his route had changed, and so missed picking up a number of passengers.
He said Mr O’Toole raised his job performance and "stupidity" at the meeting on the 14 September, but said there was "no accusation of using a racial slur" raised.
He denied saying the words.
Mr O’Toole had also claimed the minutes and the letter of dismissal submitted to the WRC by Mr Cormican were "false"- a suggestion denied by the complainant under cross-examination.
In his decision, adjudicating officer Kevin Baneham wrote that the most significant conflict of evidence in the case was the alleged use of a racial slur.
The official wrote that Mr Cormican had given evidence under affirmation and denied the claim - while neither of the workers who had signed statements were available to testify, one of them having passed away.
He found that the credibility of the written statements making the allegation against Mr Cormican was in question – noting that the statements submitted to him were dated 14 September 2022.
His decision records that the case had been called on for hearings in May and June 2022.
"It is unlikely that a statement made in 2020 would wrongly post-date the year of the statement by two years. It is much more likely that the documents were actually prepared in 2022, and this year inserted out of habit. This suggests that the statements were used to add some documentary ballast," Mr Baneham wrote.
"I find that the allegation made against the complainant is false and not substantiated," Mr Baneham wrote.
He made a finding of fact that Mr Cormican had "misread his work docket".
"This error is not gross misconduct, nor was it grounds for the complainant to be dismissed," Mr Baneham added.
He noted that Mr Cormican had found work "quickly", but had lost redundancy entitlements from his six years’ service with the firm.
He awarded €1,200 for lost earnings and a further €7,728 in compensation for the loss of accrued service, with the total order against the company totalling €8,928.