Belfast Telegraph

Firm ordered to pay former worker £13k for unfair dismissal

One of Northern Ireland's leading refrigeration companies has been ordered to pay over £13,000 in compensation to a former employee after a tribunal ruled he was unfairly dismissed
One of Northern Ireland's leading refrigeration companies has been ordered to pay over £13,000 in compensation to a former employee after a tribunal ruled he was unfairly dismissed
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

One of Northern Ireland's leading refrigeration companies has been ordered to pay over £13,000 in compensation to a former employee after a tribunal ruled he was unfairly dismissed.

Terence McDonnell took the case against Portglenone Refrigeration Services Ltd, where he worked in administration/project management for 13 years.

The claimant accused his former employers of unfair dismissal and sex discrimination in the form of victimisation.

Mr McDonnell claimed that he was treated adversely on an increasingly frequent basis and ultimately dismissed in 2018 because he had supported two female colleagues in their complaint of sexual harassment.

The four-day hearing in Belfast before employment judge Orla Murray was told that there were no relevant issues raised with managers until an incident in March 2012.

This involved Declan Maguire, a salesman; a cleaner and Jennifer Montgomery, who was based in administration and accounts.

After cleaning the office, the cleaner made the comment: "That's a lot more Protestant looking now."

It was alleged that Mr Maguire laughed at the remark but Ms Montgomery was offended by it and Mr Maguire's reaction.

Ms Montgomery complained to Mr McDonnell, who then contacted the managing director Seamus Magill and met with him on her behalf.

At the meeting Mr McDonnell also told Mr Magill of previous inappropriate comments made by Mr Maguire to Ms Montgomery and her female colleague.

Mr Magill said he had later met with both women and pressed them about any "sexual comments", but neither would give him any details.

Mr McDonnell's evidence was that he expected to be dismissed in 2015 shortly after the two female complainants had left.

He said there was a campaign to "push him out of the company" over a number of years, a claim rejected by the tribunal.

Early in 2018 the claimant was asked to perform an audit of 80 sites belonging to a leading retail company and produce the necessary report by a deadline that September.

Mr McDonnell set up a system whereby he would remain in the office and engineers doing maintenance work at the sites would tick boxes on a form.

This was instead of attending the sites to conduct the audit himself and compiling a report the way Mr Magill had originally asked him to do.

As a result, only 13 of the 80 sites were done in an eight-week period before Mr McDonnell left the firm in March 2018.

The claimant said he was given this task "unreasonably" on top of his other work, but the tribunal accepted Mr Magill's evidence that Mr McDonnell was told this was very important work and he should "drop everything else".

By 2018 the company's staff costs had increased and it was decided that overheads had to be cut by a reduction in staff.

Mr Magill said Mr McDonnell's failure to do the audit as instructed was indicative of his attitude to his work and an example of him doing less over a period and "effectively diminishing his own role".

When Mr McDonnell left the company it was discovered that he had punched two holes in the wall behind his desk and covered them up with a poster.

He admitted that he had punched at least one of the holes in frustration at alleged behaviour by Mr Maguire to another member of staff.

In its ruling, the tribunal dismissed the claim of sex discrimination but found that no procedure whatsoever was followed in relation to the redundancy as Mr McDonnell was simply called to a meeting and told without warning that he was being made redundant.

Portglenone Refrigeration Services Ltd was ordered to pay compensation totalling £13,007 to Mr McDonnell. It did not respond to a request for comment.

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