'Whistleblower' call centre agent gets interim reinstatement

Agent alleges they were dismissed for blowing whistle on favouritism in workplace

'Whistleblower' call centre agent gets interim reinstatement

A call centre agent who accused his employer of unjustifiably them for whistleblowing has won their application of interim reinstatement at the Employment Relations Authority (ERA).

The employee - named as PPK in case - was employed in a call centre operated by the Communication and Training Service Limited, which provides taxi booking services to an entity labelled in the case as ROC.

PPK, who was employed for 12 years until their termination, accused a senior person within the respondents' businesses of "nepotism" and "favouritism" after the individual allegedly asked them direct driving jobs to preferred drivers.

The agent raised concerns regarding the work to the employers involved, including the senior person, but internal investigation in the case found that the job allocation was both "lawful and reasonable."

The respondents' then later advised PPK that they would be investigating PPK for four allegations, including threatening or blackmailing the senior executive when raising the favouritism case.

According to the respondents, PPK implied when approaching the senior person that they would remain quiet if they received a pay rise.

PPK was later dismissed on August 15, 2023, based on the alleged blackmail and for using the respondents' IT system to access driver earnings not relevant to their role.

The respondents also said in their dismissal that they lost trust and confidence in PPK.

PPK initially raised the matter when the respondents' had begun their investigation against them, claiming that the employers were acting in retaliation for making a protected disclosure.

The agent later amended the lodged matter when they were sacked, claiming unjustified dismissal and sought interim and permanent reinstatement.

ERA's decision on reinstatement

The ERA ruled in favour of the agent's request for interim reinstatement, citing the Protected Disclosures (Protections of Whistleblowers) Act 2022 (PDA 2022).

"The Authority notes here the purpose of the PDA 2022 is to promote the public interest by facilitating the disclosure and timely investigation of serious wrongdoing in or by and organisation and by protecting the people who disclose in accordance with the PDA 2022," the ERA said in its decision.

According to the ERA, the interests of justice in these circumstances are best served by an outcome that serves the purposes stated in the PDA 2022.

"Overall, I am satisfied there is greater inconvenience to PPK if they are not reinstated as compared to the inconvenience for the respondents if PPK is. The balance of convenience favours PPK," the authority added.

In the interim reinstatement, however, the ERA said PPK would not be permitted to electronically record any conversations with persons working within the respondents' businesses.

They would also only be allowed to access systems relating to taxi jobs and fear of drivers where it is necessary for their role's performance.

The preliminary decision has yet to determine on which organisation was PPK's employer - but the ERA ruled that the agent has "well met the threshold for an arguable case of unjustified dismissal."

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