Coach driver sacked over Facebook post showing 'dangerous' wheel wins unfair dismissal case

By Gordon Deegan

A coach firm sacked one of its drivers after he posted on his personal Facebook page a photo of a wheel on his bus that was in danger of coming off the bus’s axle after most of the wheel’s nuts fell off.

The driver stated that he posted the photo and accompanying commentary “as a shock reaction to what he clearly regarded as a potentially very dangerous incident”.

The driver accepted that he probably should not have been posting on his Facebook about a work-related incident but that he had been “angry, shocked and scared” at the time and had not thought through the potential ramifications, especially given that 5-6 of his 100 Facebook friends were also employees of the coach firm.

However, the firm sacked the man for gross misconduct with the firm stating that the posting of the photo and accompanying commentary on Facebook caused the firm to lose faith in the worker’s integrity.

The firm stated that because of the worker’s breach of confidentiality, it had no option but to dismiss the man with immediate effect on February 13, 2017.

The man sued for unfair dismissal and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has upheld his claim and ordered the coach firm to pay him €990.

The award would be significantly higher but for the driver securing alternative employment within 10 weeks at a much higher salary.

In her ruling, WRC Adjudication Officer, Aideen Collard stated that the driver’s main concern in the case was “vindication as opposed to compensation”.

Ms Collard found that there was no reputational damage to the coach firm from the driver posting the photo of the wheel on his Facebook page.

Ms Collard stated that the driver was unaware that his actions in posting the photo and related commentary in question could lead to his dismissal.

On the day that the coach driver took and posted the photo, he said that whilst driving the bus on a motorway with passengers on board, he heard something hitting his chassis and his steering-wheel had started to shake.

The driver braked and pulled into the hard shoulder.

He said that he was shocked to discover that the left rear wheel was hanging on one bolt and the rest of the nuts were gone.

He said that he could not imagine what could have happened if the wheel had come off the axle whilst driving at 100km/ph.

The driver informed the passengers that he had a problem with the wheel and put out a warning triangle and switched hazard lights on before ringing his duty manager.

Some of the passengers alighted and took photos of the wheel and whilst awaiting buses to transfer the passengers, the driver also took photos of the wheel in question on his phone.

He posted the photo on his personal Facebook page to which only his Facebook friends had access and wrote about the dangerous nature of the incident.

The comments were online for three to four hours before he removed them.

He pointed out that he had not included the identifying coach colour and did not refer to the company’s name as “I did not want to put bad name on my company. I would never do that.”

The driver said that he posted the photo and accompanying commentary using his personal phone whilst waiting on the hard shoulder for assistance to arrive.

The man said that he had not pursued his complaint primarily for financial reasons and wanted an apology from the coach firm.

During the disciplinary process, the driver stated: “I did wrong by posting photo on Facebook and am really sorry for doing it.”

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