In Brief: Case Law Special (July 2019)Posted in : Supplementary Articles ROI on 30 July 2019
This month’s 'In Brief ' is a common law catch up. It can be hard to keep up-to-date with case law developments – it’s all too easy to miss an important decision that has major implications for employers and employees. For this very reason we decided to compile a list of some of the most interesting employment cases that have been decided in the last few months.
If you want to know more about any of the cases, each has a link to a more detailed case review on the Irish Employment Law Hub, where you will also find a further link to the full judgment online.
The decisions highlighted in this email cover a wide range of employment issues, including discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and disability; constructive/unfair dismissal; bullying and harassment and part-time workers rights.
This Unfair Dismissal case provides a cautionary note for Employers in ensuring consistency of applied sanctions in disciplinary procedures and the importance of adhering to disciplinary procedures. While the WRC did award €20,000 this did include a reduction for the Employee’s conduct contributing to his dismissal.
This case decided by the Labour Court focuses on best practice in dealing with complaints of bullying and harassment in the workplace. The Court awarded the Complainant €3,000 for the Employer’s procedural failings and noted that the procedure did not allow for an appeal stage - emphasising the importance of an appeal hearing which can provide a further examination of an internal complaint.
This appeal case focuses on an Employer’s requirement to provide reasonable accommodation for a disabled employee. The Prison Service successfully relied on a special derogation under Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act arguing that all Prison Officers need to be able to fully complete all the duties associated with the role.
Where an Officer is unable to do so because of a disability then the only option is to avail of ill health retirement or to transfer to PASO (Prison Administration Support Officer) grade. The Labour Court upheld the Prison Service’s appeal and overturned the original Adjudication Officers Decision.
Employers should be mindful of their duties to make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees but note that the legislation does have specific exemptions from this duty.
Employers have a duty to ensure that employees’ avail of their statutory rest breaks during employment and to demonstrate that they have fulfilled this duty they need to keep appropriate records. The Adjudication Officer found that data from an Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) system did not constitute appropriate records as it did not fully capture the amount of time the employee spent dealing with customers.
Employers are reminded therefore of the importance of keeping accurate records of rest breaks, e.g. through for example a clocking in system or other documentation to demonstrate compliance.
The High Court, in this injunction case confirmed that it did not have jurisdiction to deal with the substance of a complaint that was already being progressed by the appropriate statutory agency – in this case the Workplace Relations Commission.
The Employer in this case was unable to rebut the Employee’s argument that her dismissal was related to her pregnancy. While it will not always be the case that dismissal of a pregnant employee amounts to discrimination, Employers must ensure that they have followed fair procedures and have the documentation to demonstrate that the dismissal was not related to an Employee’s pregnancy but some other reason.
Many job roles are funded by a third-party organisation. In this case concerning access to a pension scheme for Part Time Workers, the Respondent was unsuccessful in arguing that the funding third party was the correct Employer and that they were not liable for the funding organisation’s failure to extend funding for pension arrangements for part-time staff.
Employers need to ensure therefore that their employees employment rights are equitable regardless of third-party funding restrictions.
The Terms of Employment (Information) Acts, 1994 To 2014 require an employer to notify an employee of the nature and date of any change to the particulars contained in the written statement not later than one month after the change comes into effect. The failure to do so in this case resulted in an award of €800, despite the Employer arguing that the change had been agreed verbally. This case once again reminds us of the importance of keeping up to do date and accurate documentation.
Fair procedures are once again the focal point of this Unfair Dismissal case. Where an Employee is unable a disciplinary hearing, particularly one that might lead to dismissal, an employer should err on the side of caution and reschedule the meeting to enable the Employee to attend and put forward their defence.
Failure to pay wages regularly and to address the Employee’s concerns justified his decision to resign and succeed in this constructive dismissal complaint. The Court noted that Respondent had exploited the Complainant’s goodwill and loyalty to the business and left him no option but to hand in his notice.
When considering dismissing an Employee for misconduct an Employer should ensure that they have fully investigated all the circumstances of the alleged misconduct; followed fair procedures and considered any mitigating factors, such as the Employee’s length of service and existing disciplinary record. Failure to do so will, as was the situation in this case, lead to a finding of Unfair Dismissal.
The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.