A prison officer in Ireland who complained about bullying at work and unfair dismissal has been paid more than €14,500 by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The Irish Times reports the man, who is in his 50s but has not been named, was certified unfit to work more than five years before he was dismissed.

He started work in 2008, and his absence began in September 2015.

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He was eventually dismissed in May 2020.

The claimant was facing disciplinary proceedings, which were placed on hold.

He had also made allegations of bullying, which did not go into an internal process during the same five-year period.

The case was brought against The State, which said it was not a case of unfair dismissal and said the officer had a long absence on sick leave before the dismissal.

It said the officer was due to face disciplinary proceedings in 2015 but went sick on the day of the proposed hearing.

Lawyers said numerous efforts were made to work with the man to see if he could return to work.

The man said he was bullied in the prison service and made complaints about a manager and other issues.

He said a suggestion was made to him about transferring, but moving jobs would have meant being paid less.

He also said he had difficulty making a written statement as there were “huge issues” of trust over what happened to him.

He said he was told to go off sick by his union.

He eventually fell out with his union and said he wanted officials to arrange for a safe location so he could start working again. 

In the decision, adjudicating officer Janet Hughes said the man had tried to meet with the director general of the Prison Service.

She said his application was refused but “but no alternative was offered — [it was] simply rejected. The sole method preferred by the respondent was a paper exercise.”

She added: “HR staff conducted the entire process from 2019 until 2020 remotely and without any effort at meeting and hearing the complainant or indeed exploring an alternative short of dismissal.

“The director general and the secretary general approved their reports without question.

“No appeal process or hearer was offered at any stage.”

She added a probation report was “entirely skewed against the complainant and contained adverse information not notified to him in advance and unrelated to the case for dismissal put to him in 2019 and 2020.”

She described the situation as “an extraordinary breach of fair procedures”.

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She continued: “The extent of the procedural flaws is found to be so great that it includes not speaking or offering to speak with the employee at any stage during the disciplinary process.

“The only possible conclusion is that the respondent fails the reasonableness test because they failed so dramatically in examining anything other than making the complainant almost entirely responsible for his own health and then dismissed him for failing that responsibility through the use of extremely flawed procedures and dismissing his point of view out of hand in 2019 and 2020.”

However, she did note there was “a tendency on the part of the complainant to blame all other parties for his predicament” before she found the dismissal to be unfair.

“In summary, the manner in which the complainant’s case was handled over a five-year period leading to his dismissal fails every test of fair procedures.

She awarded the officer four weeks’ gross pay of €4,550 and €10,000 in respect of the loss of superannuation.

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