Thinking about submitting a claim to the Workplace Relations Commission?
Take your time and get advice first if you are unsure of what you are doing.
A recent decision from the WRC in a case involving a sales area manager and a construction company illustrates how important it is to complete the WRC correctly when the claim is being submitted. If that does not happen, and the claim is brought under the incorrect act, then the employee’s claim is bound to fail as the WRC adjudicator will not have the jurisdiction to hear the case.
In case ADJ-00026280 a sales area manager had worked for the employer from 1998 to 2019-that is, twenty one years.
The employee had been retired out of the job by the employer when he reached the age of 65 years, having been told he was being replaced by a younger man. The employer claimed 65 was the retirement age in the workplace, notwithstanding that there was an employee who continued in employment at the age of 74 years.
The sales area manager was replaced by a younger man who was given a new company car and he moved on to find employment elsewhere as he did not wish to retire and wanted to continue working.
He brought a claim to the Workplace Relations Commission under section 39 of the Redundancy Payments Act seeking a redundancy payment for all his years of service.
The WRC adjudicator found that he was not terminated by reason of redundancy as the job had not been done away with and a new man took up the position.
For this reason, there was no redundancy and it was held that he had reached retirement age and had been retired. His complaint was ‘not well founded’ and failed.
However, had the employee brought his claim under the Employment Equality Act 1998 claiming discrimination on the grounds of age his claim may have succeeded.
He would have been arguing that as there was no written contract setting out a retirement age, and as there was another employee working away at the age of 74, there was no retirement age at the age of 65 established by the employer.
This claim was not brought, however, and therefore could not have been heard by the WRC adjudicator.
Takeaway for employees
I frequently meet employees who have submitted claims to the WRC under the wrong acts. Their claims are bound to fail and it is too late trying to advance the correct claim on the day of the hearing if it was not chosen on the WRC complaint form in the first instance.
If an employee is in any doubt about the correct box to tick he/she should either obtain legal advice or tick all boxes that might apply and can withdraw the inappropriate ones later on, if necessary.