Irish Employment Law In Brief: Case Law UpdatePosted in : Supplementary Articles ROI on 1 August 2022
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 all cover unfair dismissal.
John of God Hospital v Ms Catherine McDowell 
This matter came before the Labour Court as appeal by the Respondent employer against a decision by an Adjudication Officer who found that the Appellant (McDowell) had been unfairly dismissed and awarded the sum of €15,000 in compensation.
The Appellant was employed by the Respondent since 2018 and contended that she was dismissed without notice between the 27th of February 2020 and the 2nd of March 2020. However, the Respondent contended that she was not dismissed as alleged and contended that the Appellant left the premises on the 27th of February 2020 and did not return and consequently remains a ‘live’ relief employee with the Respondent.
Often when there is a dispute around whether a dismissal took place or not the courts will focus on the actions of the parties at dispute to determine whether what was being claimed took place, did in fact take place. In this case the Respondent’s argument that the Complainant had not been dismissed was not borne out by the fact that she had not subsequently been offered any shifts following the incident leading to the alleged dismissal giving rise to this claim.
John (Sean) Brilly v Scoil Mhuire Community School 
The Complainant’s dismissal arose following a disciplinary process initiated against the Complainant following an investigation into complaints that were made by the Complainant. The Principal formed the view that the complainant was motivated by malice in making the complaint against the one individual and also in naming three other people in subsequent correspondence. The Principal therefore compiled a report for the board of management and initiated stage 4 of the disciplinary procedures. The board of management found that the complainant was guilty of gross misconduct and notified the complainant by letter in June 2019 that he was to be dismissed from his position within the school. The Respondent outlined that the Complainant availed of his ability to appeal his dismissal to the Teacher’s Disciplinary Appeal Panel which was unsuccessful, and the Complainant was dismissed on the expiry of three months’ notice in February 2020.
The WRC ruled that although the Respondent had not adhered to fair procedures and the Complainant had been unfairly dismissed, the Complainant had not made sufficient attempts to mitigate his losses. It was the view of the Adjudication Officer that the Complainant should have applied for jobs outside the field of working in in his profession. The WRC also highlighted that the investigation process invoked by the Respondent should not have been expedited to ‘stage 4’ as this did not give the Complainant a proper opportunity to defend himself against the allegations, and a lesser stage of the disciplinary process would have sufficed.
Darragh O’Farrell v Campbell Catering Limited t/a Aramark Ireland 
The Complainant was employed as a General Manager for the Respondent between the 14th of August 2017 and the 26th of June 2020. He was made redundant during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Complainant asserted that his dismissal was unfair. The Respondent asserted that his role was redundant.
For a valid redundancy situation to exist, the Employer must have explored all alternative roles available for Employees. Significantly, the Adjudication Officer noted in this case that it was artificial to assess the availability of alternative roles in May and June 2020 as this was during the first lockdown and many people were on lay-off. Employers delayed hiring people. There was little real prospect of the complainant identifying a suitable alternative in this short period. Given the extraordinary circumstances, the Respondent ought to have assessed alternatives over a longer period.
A Sales Executive v A Software Company 
The Complainant commenced employment with the Respondent on the 12th of December 2016 and was initially employed in the role of Account Executive prior to his promotion to the role of Enterprise Account Executive in April 2019. He was dismissed on the grounds of serious misconduct on the 17th of September 2019, following allegations of bullying against him.
This case demonstrates that communication between Employers and Employees is of fundamental importance when a disciplinary process or investigative procedure is ongoing. The function of the Adjudication Officer is to assess what a reasonable employer would do in the circumstances. In this case, the Adjudication Officer emphasised the fact that the “warning” or risk that the Complainant’s position could potentially be in jeopardy was not properly highlighted. This case also demonstrates the importance of creating an investigative procedure that will clearly be independent and wholly separate to that of a disciplinary one.
These cases and many more can be found here on the Legal Island hub.
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.