Tour bus driver who ‘fell asleep at wheel’ loses claim for €5,000
Posted on 4th July 2022 at 21:15
Neither his identity nor that of his employer were disclosed at the WRC hearing
A tour bus driver who, his colleagues claimed, lost concentration and fell asleep at the wheel, has lost his pay claim for nearly €5,000 in wages.
The driver had lodged a complaint against the tour bus operator under the Payment of Wages Act.
Neither his identity nor that of his employer were disclosed in a written decision published on Monday morning as the case dates from before the Supreme Court ruling requiring Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) proceedings to be heard in public.
The bus driver told a hearing in January 2020 that he was called in for a meeting with the managing director on March 15th, 2019 over complaints from two colleagues that he had “fallen asleep while driving the coach”, which he denied.
His boss told him he had two choices: to go for a medical assessment with the company doctor, or leave the business taking eight weeks’ pay in lieu, he told the WRC.
The complainant said he had “done nothing wrong” and opted for the medical.
He volunteered to clean the buses at night until the medical appointment, scheduled in early April 2019.
Towards the end of March, the managing director put him back on the roster – when he worked one day before being removed from the roster again, he said.
He said he was “for the most part not on the roster for March and April” while awaiting the medical and said he was owed lost wages of €4,825 during that time.
He said he ought to be paid in full from March 21st, 2019 to May 1st 2019 because he was taken off the work roster “through no fault of his own”.
The company said concerns had been raised by two other staff members about “dangerous driving” by the complainant.
“It was felt his driving was very poor and suffered from a loss of concentration while at the wheel. In this context the respondent felt they had to act immediately as this was potentially a serious health and safety issue,” the company submitted.
The company’s position was that the driver agreed to take up the job of cleaning coaches in the yard for a four-day week at €240 a day at his meeting the managing director.
“After working one day on this job, 19th March, 2019, the complainant decided he did not want to continue with this work,” the company told the WRC.
It said he failed to report for work from March 21st that year onward and did not contact the firm or submit a medical cert.
The company said it sent the complainant a registered letter with notice of the medical assessment on April 8th.
The driver failed to attend the first appointment but attended a second, it said.
The doctor advised a work pattern of two days on and two days off as being “likely to reduce the risk of fatigue or daytime sleepiness while driving”, the firm said.
When the proposed working arrangement was put to the bus driver he said he was “not sure” about this plan and “wanted time to think about it, the company told the WRC.
It said there was no further direct contact between the driver and the firm after this.
It later found out the bus driver had started working as a contractor for its competitor companies from mid-April onward, it said.
In her decision, adjudicating officer Caroline Browne found the bus driver had gone absent from work without explanation despite having agreed suitable alternative duties with his employer.
She wrote that the action taken by the employer to take him off driving duties and agree suitable alternative work was “a prudent action... to ensure the complainant was medically fit to drive”.
Ms Browne found “all outstanding payments due were discharged” in full by the firm and dismissed the claim.
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