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Failure to go through company’s grievance procedure described as ‘unreasonable’ 
A workplace relations hearing has accepted an administration worker’s allegation that she was slapped on the bottom and picked up by her boss but has rejected her claim for constructive dismissal. 
Although a colleague of the woman gave evidence of witnessing the alleged incident, the managing director in question swore on oath that the allegation of inappropriate physical contact did not happen. 
Bronagh Whelan lodged a complaint under Section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Act against Glana Controlled Hygiene Ltd of Waterford Road Business Park, New Ross, Co Wexford, alleging she had been subjected to unacceptable behaviour by the company’s managing director and that her workload and duties became intolerable. 
She resigned by phone on April 30th, 2020, four years after she started with the company, and lodged a complaint with the Workplace Relations Commission two months later. 
Ms Whelan said she found her boss, the managing director “intimidating” and said that he would make “hurtful remarks”. 
Her evidence was that “shouting and swearing” was the norm from her boss and that she felt uncomfortable with the working atmosphere because of his behaviour. 
She said on one occasion, the managing director “picked her up in his arms and carried her from the warehouse to the office despite her requests that she be put down”. Ms Whelan said that on a second occasion he “slapped [her] on the bottom as she leaned over a desk”. 
Another colleague gave evidence of witnessing both incidents, though the managing director swore on oath that neither took place and the first he knew of them was when they were raised in the complaint. 
Asked why she didn’t complain about these incidents at the time, Ms Whelan said “she wanted to keep her job”. 
‘Girl who answers the phone’ 
Ms Whelan also said he had introduced her to visitors to the premises as “the girl who answers the phone”. 
She said she was “led to believe” that she would be given a pay rise but was summoned to a meeting by the managing director and his wife and told it could not offer a pay rise, which left her “very disheartened”. 
She couldn’t understand why her hours were cut to a three-day week in April 2020 in spite of an increase in the firm’s business because of increased demand for its products at the start of the pandemic, she told the commission, and she ended up working late evenings to keep up after an office administrator was let go. 
Ms Whelan added that she was directed to implement what she regarded as an “unethical” decision to supply out-of-date sanitiser – which was corroborated by another witness who said it contributed to his own decision to resign. 
In his evidence, the firm’s managing director said he was “sure” the two allegations of inappropriate physical contact did not happen. 
He said he might have told Ms Whelan he would “see what he could do” about a pay rise but when he examined the company’s accounts with his wife, who is the company’s accountant, they realised a pay rise would not be possible. 
He said he was assured by the manufacturer that the out-of-date hand sanitiser could be used. 
The managing director told the hearing that Ms Whelan had said she was having difficulties arranging childcare and that he supplied the necessary equipment for her to work from home. 
He said Ms Whelan herself had said in January 2020 that she would move to a three-day week in September that year, and insisted it was her choice when it was implemented in March. 
The downturn in the restaurant sector during the pandemic had hit the company’s business, he said, and there was “a lot of uncertainty” about its future. 
Adjudication officer Joe Donnelly said he accepted the Ms Whelan’s allegations about being slapped and picked up by her boss, and said the evidence was that they happened around October 2019. 
“Whilst the MD denies that these events happened, the complainant’s evidence was corroborated by one of her work colleagues,” he wrote in his decision. “I accept, therefore, that inappropriate behaviour on the part of the MD happened.” 
He also said there was witness evidence of a “rudimentary and plain” management style and that the managing director used abusive language. 
However he found that Ms Whelan had not used the company’s internal grievance procedure and failed to provide evidence for her suggestion that it was not fit for purpose. 
“Whilst there were aspects of the respondent’s behaviour that provided grounds for the complainant to believe it to be unreasonable, the action of the complainant in resigning without notice and not invoking the provisions of the Grievance Procedure was also unreasonable,” he wrote. 
He ruled that Ms Whelan was not constructively dismissed. 
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