Categories
Employment Claims

Courts Will Not Intervene When WRC Can Handle Employment Dispute

The Court of Appeal will not interfere in an employment dispute when there is a statutory regime in place to deal with the row.

This was confirmed again recently in a case involving a solicitor who asked the High Court and the Court of Appeal to intervene in his problem concerning his proposed redundancy.

Background

The solicitor, Mr Kearney, was employed by Byrne Wallace solicitors since 2006. Mr Kearney was made redundant in August 2017 and was given his contractual notice period. He disputed this redundancy on a number of grounds including:

  1. The claim that it was not a genuine redundancy
  2. The claim that fair procedures were not followed in carrying out the redundancy

The High Court refused Mr Kearney’s application for an injunction restraining his dismissal and made an important distinction which is worth noting. The High Court found that where the employee is given their contractual entitlements there is no role for the High court to intervene because there was no breach of contract.

Sham redundancy?

The sham redundancy argument is a separate one and one which the High Court found must be brought under Unfair Dismissals legislation before the Workplace Relations Commission in the first instance.

Mr Kearney also argued that there was an implied term in respect of fair procedures in his contract and on this basis there was a breach of contract, which would allow the High Court to intervene. The High Court accepted the argument from Byrne Wallace that there was no specific term of his contract breached and therefore could not get involved, holding that the correct venue for Mr Kearney was the Workplace Relations Commission.

Mr Kearney appealed the case to the Court of appeal and argued that the Courts should not restrict themselves to cases where there was a breach of an express term alone but should hear cases where there was breaches of implied terms such as those of mutual trust and confidence between the parties.

The Court of appeal rejected this argument and relied on the Nolan v Emo Oil case as authority for the proposition that the employer is entitled to terminate a contract of employment provided proper notice is given.

The Court of Appeal did not reject the argument that an employer could be in breach of an implied term of the contract of employment thereby allowing the Court to intervene on the basis of a contractual breach. In this case, however, the Court of appeal held that Mr Kearney had failed to prove breaches by the employer of implied terms of trust and confidence and had failed to prove bad faith by Byrne Wallace.

Conclusion

Unless there is a breach of the contract of employment the Civil courts will not get involved in a redundancy and the employee will be directed to the WRC with any claim or dispute on the basis of an unfair dismissal claim under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977.

Case Law

Read the High Court decision in Kearney v Byrne Wallace here.

Read the Court of Appeal decision in Kearney v Byrne Wallace here.