Unfair dismissal-4 interesting decisions last week including a €120,000 award

Last week threw up some eye watering unfair dismissal decisions being reported in the media.

A man was awarded a total of €88,200 for unfair dismissal in a dispute concerning a phone bill which indicated the employee was in Germany on Christmas Eve, 2018. The employee had requested leave for that date but his request was declined.

The employer suspended him and asked him to let them have the company phone back and not to remove any data. However, when he returned the phone, it had been restored to factory settings. The employer viewed this as gross misconduct and lost trust and confidence in the employee.

The WRC adjudicator found that there was no loss, per se, to the company arising from his actions and found that he was unfairly dismissed on substantive grounds. The adjudicator found that he had contributed to his dismissal and the employee sought reinstatement together with financial compensation.

In a separate case a man, Ray Walsh, was awarded €120,000 for unfair dismissal in a purported redundancy situation. He was advised of the ‘redundancy’ by Microsoft Teams and that the Irish sales operations was closing.

The adjudication officer determined that the employer failed to behave in a reasonable fashion in the way it carried out the redundancy. She held that it was disrespectful to him to invite him to a meeting with no warning of the content and announce his redundancy.

She also found that no credible explanation was given for the employer’s failure to engage with the employee to try to identify an alternative role.

By contrast with these two decisions there were two dismissals which were held by the WRC to be justified and fair.

Covid 19 related dismissals

One involved an employee being dismissed for spitting after being reminded of the social distancing obligations during the Covid 19 pandemic. The adjudicator held that he had put the health of his colleagues in danger.

The other one concerned a bus driver who posted a video online saying drivers would not collect fares due to social distancing concerns. The WRC held he was fairly dismissed.

Conclusion

If you are an employer you need to be extremely mindful of an unfair dismissal, or other, claim going against you. If that happens it can be stomach churningly expensive.

Imagine having to find €120,000 or €88,000 plus legal costs to shell out on foot of a WRC decision that goes against you. You cannot be too careful with these types of cases.

Get legal advice early and don’t rule out settling.