Award of €5,000 for heavy plant operator who denies smoking cannabis at work

After his employer admitted he fired an employee without due process or investigation, a heavy plant operator has been awarded €5,000 for unfair dismissal. The plant operator denied ever smoking cannabis on site.

Teleporter driver Mark John Power was awarded a settlement by the Workplace Relations Committee against BPH Construction Ltd, trading as Blueprint Homes, under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977.

A supervisor at BPH claimed to have got a smell of cannabis from the cab which was driven primarily by Mr Power on that occasion. He also claimed that a bag of the drug was found on a previous occasion.

Mr Power, who denied ever having smoked cannabis on site, told the committee that there were other contributing factors which led to his dismissal. He cited complaints he had made about being verbally abused by one colleague, and complained about another co-worker who had been drinking heavily.

The committee learned that on the day he was sacked, 8th September 2023 company director Stephen Quinn called him to say that there was ‘too much drama on site’ and that he should not show up for work the following week.

The tribunal heard from Mr Quinn that Mr Power was on bad terms with some other workers and was causing operational difficulties for the project.

Mr Quinn told the tribunal that Mr Power had narrowly avoided reversing the Load-all machine into a co-worker on one occasion. The damage done to the machine cost the company €6,000 to repair. Mr Power was the main driver of the machine at that time.

Mr Power was, according to Mr Quinn, the main cause of many problems on site.

Mr Quinn did, however, admit that he had fired Mr Power without investigation or the correct procedures, although he had paid Mr Power all outstanding money due to him including two weeks' wage in lieu of notice.

Pat O’Shea, site supervisor stated that when the vehicle was sent to be repaired with an outside firm, a bag of cannabis was found inside. He also said that on one occasion he got a smell of the drug from the driver's cab when he went to talk to Mr Power.

Mr O’Shea accepted under cross examination that Mr Power was not the only driver of that particular vehicle. He also admitted that during his entire employment there was no allegation of cannabis use on site by Mr Power.

Mr Power explained, addressing mitigation of loss, that six weeks after he had been fired, he started to work as a loader driver for an agency where he was paid about the same rate as BPH Construction, namely €828.22.

Thomas O‘ Driscoll, the adjudicator, stated that there had been a total disregard for any fair procedure.

While BPH Construction may have been justifiably angry at Mr Power’s performance and behaviour, he was never investigated or approached for any disciplinary reason before being fired.

There was no other conclusion to be reached other than it was a case of unfair dismissal due to the unprofessional way in which his dismissal had been handled.

BPH Construction was ordered to pay Mr Power the sum of €5,000, which amounted to about six weeks wages.


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