The Employment Court recently held that a dismissal for incompatibility based on an employee’s confrontational and belittling behaviour at work was justified – Walker v ProCare Health Ltd.
ProCare employed Ms Walker for approximately 2 years, and she was the Company’s financial controller at the time her employment was terminated for incompatibility.
ProCare employees complained that Ms Walker was “unpleasant and quite hostile”, and “quite confrontational”. Specifically they complained that Mrs Walker: made rude remarks about other staff members; belittled other staff members; behaved erratically; sent undermining and offensive emails; was uncooperative with the Company’s auditors and was prone to flying into rages.
ProCare implemented a plan designed to address the breakdown of communication and re-establish relationships, reduce pressure and provide training. This plan failed and ProCare met with Ms Walker and put the issues to her. Ms Walker refused to accept there was an incompatibility problem. ProCare concluded that Ms Walker was not going to change and terminated her employment.
This case shows that in order to justify a dismissal on the grounds of incompatibility, the onus is on the employer to establish that: there was irreconcilable incompatibility; and the irreconcilable breakdown in the employment relationship was attributable wholly or substantially to the employee; and the employer effected the dismissal in a procedurally fair manner.
Walker is a helpful case for employers managing a problem involving serious incompatibility in the workplace, but should not be taken as a green light to dismiss an employee who is simply not well liked within the workplace.
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