22nd Sep, 2020

Track worker at JLR 'unfairly dismissed' over exhaust fumes concerns

John Carlon 10th Feb, 2020 Updated: 12th Feb, 2020

A WORKER at Jaguar Land Rover was unfairly sacked after he complained exhaust fumes from cars on the production line were making him ill, a tribunal has ruled.

Paul O’Connor, who worked as a ‘door wrapper’ at the end of JLR’s production line in Solihull, said cars were being started up too early before being driven out of the factory.

He made a complaint to Jaguar Land Rover that fumes were making him sick.

At an employment tribunal in Birmingham, Mr O’Connor said he had raised concerns about cars being started up before the extraction point in the Elmdon factory.

On January 15 2018, Mr O’Connor started work at a section of the line which was not his designated spot. His shift manager told him to return to the bottom of the production line, but Mr O’Connor said he would not move while cars were being started up outside the ventilated area.

Later that morning, Mr O’Connor was told to go to his designated spot once more, but he said managers had still not checked that vehicle drive off was safe.

He then walked away from the track, took his belongings from his locker and left the site.

The same day, Mr O’Connor went to his doctor who signed him off work with stress.

Jaguar Land Rover called Mr O’Connor, who worked for the car builder for 23 years, to a meeting where he was sacked.

Tribunal judge Jonathan Meichen found it ‘an unreasonable omission’ that JLR did not allow Mr O’Connell the benefit of his co-worker Paul Williams’ submission in the meeting.

In a disciplinary investigation, the track manager at JLR admitted she knew of Mr O’Connor’s safety concerns, but on the day, it was found no action had been taken to stop cars setting off outside the ventilated area.

The judge found the disciplinary investigation by JLR had been carried out with prejudice, and the investigator had not taken account of Mr O’Connor’s dedicated 23 years’ service.

Judge Meachen also said JLR had been wrong about its assertion the concern had not been raised by other workers – as exhaust fumes had been logged as a concern only months earlier.

The judge said Mr O’Connor had taken reasonable steps to protect himself from danger.

The ruling said: “Faced with the stark instruction that he should go to work straightaway in the very area where [he had] been exposed to fumes without corrective action by the respondents, we think the claimant’s action was appropriate.

“We are satisfied that the reason for dismissal was the step which the claimant took to protect himself from danger. His case was not investigated.”

Compensation for Mr O’Connor is set to be decided at a tribunal ‘remedy hearing’ in March.

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