A SCHOOL bus operator who claimed a driver’s dog may have eaten his pay packet after putting it in his mailbox has successfully defended a wrongful dismissal lawsuit.
The driver filed a series of complaints under the Wage Payment Act and the Unfair Dismissal Act against his former employer, alleging non-payment of wages and an actual dismissal.
The identities of the parties have been anonymized in a decision released this morning by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
Both were unwilling to testify under oath, the sentencing officer stated.
The driver worked 25 hours a week for the company between August 2018 and February 2020, picking up children from local schools and attending an FÁS course, WRC was told, and was allowed to drive the bus home.
An organizer from the Independent Workers’ Union (IWU) representing the driver said his client was owed 600 euros for his last two weeks of work.
Her driver’s position was that the cash should have been left on the dashboard of the bus parked in front of his house, as agreed.
But when the union contacted the company’s owner, he said he had left the money “in the mailbox” – something he had been asked not to do was filed.
“There were no signs of a break-in, no damage to the house [and] nobody else lives in the house,” the union organizer said, arguing there was therefore “no reason to report the issue to Lake Garda”.
But there was a “precedent for late payment” by the company owner and the union “had to write him about 1,500 euros in unpaid wages on behalf of the complainant in December 2019,” according to the organizer.
“The complainant had no choice but to resign immediately because he was not paid and was effectively fired as a result,” the union organizer argued.
The bus company owner, who represented himself at the hearing, said the driver opposed paying by bank transfer when he decided to deviate from paying in cash in 2018 and therefore agreed to continue paying him in cash.
He said he either did so when the driver called his home, met him at various locations in a city in Munster, or left the cash on his bus.
He said just before his employment ended, the driver called to say he was finishing his ‘FÁS program’ and wanted to start it again – but he had to be unemployed for 12 months to be eligible.
The owner told him to “think about it” because he had “40 hours of work a week” for him, he told the commission, adding that the driver told him he would think about it.
He then said he stopped by the cab on Friday January 31, 2020, put the wages in the mailbox and called him the next day to let him know where they were.
But the driver later called back to say “there was no money,” he said.
The owner then told him to report the loss of the cash to the gardaí, or he would, he said, and he reported the matter the same day.
On Sunday, February 2, the driver called him to say he wouldn’t be driving for him anymore, but agreed to work the next day, he said.
The next day the applicant telephoned him to say that the bus was parked in front of a local community center and that he was no longer to come to his home, the owner explained.
When he asked his former driver if he had reported the loss of his wages to the Gardaí, he was told to “mind his own business,” he said.
The bus operator also indicated in submissions that the driver’s dog “could have eaten the money.”
The IWU representative said he was instructed that while the driver had a dog, it was “always out the back”. With that in mind, he said the suggestion that the dog eat the money was “not valid as the dog wasn’t in the house”.
“There were two very different versions of events presented to the hearing by the parties,” sentencing officer Peter O’Brien in a decision released this morning.
“The judge’s decision is which version of events is more compelling,” he added – adding that the factual dismissal action was based on proof of the claim for wages.
Neither party agreed to testify under oath and be cross-examined, he noted, and had relied solely on their testimonies.
“The defendant’s main argument was that the complainant fabricated this dispute in order to terminate his employment in order to be entitled to return to the Fás assistance programs,” he wrote.
He wrote that the lack of evidence of a bank transfer or receipt went against the bus company owner – but the payslips, history of paying cash in various ways and the owner’s prompt reporting of the loss to the Gardaí were all points in his favor.
The fact that the bus driver sought reinstatement as a remedy for a wrongful dismissal “does not square with his claim that he was unpaid and that he was at odds with the owner [it] urged him to leave employment immediately,” Mr O’Brien wrote.
He found the bus company owner’s version of events “more convincing” than the applicant’s, calling his arguments “more coherent” and noting that his allegations were supported by the documentary evidence submitted.
He ruled that the complaint was unfounded under the Payroll Act and ruled that the complainant had not been wrongly dismissed.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/bus-operator-who-suggested-drivers-dog-may-have-eaten-pay-packet-successfully-defends-against-unfair-dismissal-claim-41596876.html Bus operator who suspected driver’s dog may have eaten pay packet successfully defends himself against wrongful dismissal lawsuit