Michael carried his workplace grievances around with him like a man dragging a clanking chain.
It all started about 12 months ago when his employment was terminated unexpectedly. Michael was shocked and firmly believed he was unfairly dismissed.
So he submitted a claim to the Workplace Relations Commission under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977.
Michael read somewhere that it was a good idea to make a data request of the employer under the Data Protection legislation/GDPR. He had read about a case for constructive dismissal had been won because the employee had made a data access request and it uncovered email evidence of the intention to terminate the employee’s employment. The employee was awarded €50,000(Data Access Request Uncovers “Smoking Gun” Evidence to Win €50,000 Constructive Dismissal Case).
But when Michael received his personal data from the employer he believed it was not complete-there was stuff missing. So he made a complaint to the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.
He was then deeply unhappy with the way the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner dealt with his complaint and commenced legal proceedings against that office.
By the time Michael came to visit me he had also submitted a claim to the Injuries Board because he believed he had suffered a psychological or psychiatric injury as a consequence of the anxiety and stress that the dismissal from his job had caused.
His WRC hearing is coming up next week and he is getting nervous. Nervous he will lose and his sense of grievance and wrong will be deepened even further.
Now he sits in front of me and I am thinking hard about the best way to break it to him. By “break it to him” I mean my view that apart from a towering sense of grievance the only real cause of action he has is the unfair dismissal claim.
And I truly believe his prospects with this claim are less than 50/50. Because there is a good chance the employer will be able to prove there were “substantial grounds” to dismiss. (There had been a few disciplinary issues over the years with a live warning on his file).
Fear of picking one claim
I meet quite a substantial number of persons who are deeply aggrieved with the unfair way they believe they were treated by their employer.
But when they must pin their colours to the mast and put their claim in front of a third party such as a Workplace Relations Commission adjudicator they are afraid. Afraid of losing. Afraid that the third party will not see the situation in the same light as them.
So they search around. They search around for other allegations and claims to make because they want to win and get one-something-over on the employer.
Because they want an “each way” bet, just in case their claim fails. They are confident, of course, but just in case..
The essence of the claim
When I look at the facts, however, I see that when the claim is stripped down to its essence the issue to be decided will be a simple one: was the termination of the employment a discriminatory dismissal?
If Michael can prove this he wins. If he cannot, his claim is bound to fail. All the other stuff will be a sideshow, an attempt to nail the employer with something. But that’s all.
Avoiding the stark truth
Michael, like many employees I meet, will raise all sorts of spurious, tangential grievances and complaints because they want to avoid the stark truth. The truth that their claim may fail and it will hurt.
The third party
No matter how strongly you feel about the way you were treated in the workplace, regardless of your dispute with a property owner or a neighbour or anyone else for that matter, ultimately a third party will decide on the merits of your case.
This third party may be the Workplace Relations Commission, the Labour Court, any of the Civil Courts (District, Circuit, High, Supreme). It doesn’t matter-the bottom line is somebody will give a binding opinion on whether your case wins or loses.
Conclusion: be honest with yourself
You need to accept that you may win, or you may lose, but you need to be honest with yourself. Let the case or claim stand or fall on its merits, its facts, the law supporting it.
Don’t waste your time trying to concoct a case if none exists. You owe it to yourself to let a decision be made, if that is what you want, give it your best shot and appeal if necessary.
Then, accept it and move on.